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GPs are at “breaking point” and in need of respite, leaders warn

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General practices are “reaching breaking point” because of the “intense” workload pressure facing doctors and staff, the country’s most senior GP leaders have warned.

The warning came as new figures from NHS Digital showed that practices in England delivered almost five million more appointments in March 2021 than the month before and nearly three million more than in March 2019.

Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA General Practitioners Committee, said that the figures underlined the huge efforts practices were going to and the workload pressure on staff. He said, “GPs and their teams are consistently telling us they’re busier now than they have ever been, and this data—which does not include a large proportion of the vaccine programme undertaken by practices, nor a vast amount of other daily tasks—backs this up.”

Last week the Ivy Grove Surgery in Derbyshire provided an example of the strain facing some practices in a 16 page open letter to its patients about the huge demand it was facing and the resulting risk of staff burnout. The surgery said it would be reducing its use of the video consultation tool eConsult, as it had seen a doubling of demand over recent months, with some patients submitting several requests a day.

In a statement the practice told The BMJ, “We are aware of the stir our letter has caused but have also been overwhelmed by the kind feedback from our own patients, and the many encouraging messages of support we have received from GP surgeries all around the country. We therefore know that many of our GP colleagues are experiencing the same issues, but they may be fearful of articulating what is happening."

“We feel that open and honest debate about demand and workload in general practice is vital. If this letter goes even a little way towards sparking some much needed discussion then it will have been a good thing.”

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Source: BMJ, 4 May 2021

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