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10 Minutes to Burnout
Last week, Mr Hunt told the House of Commons that GP workforce concerns were a ‘very, very important issue’ that needed to be solved in order to tackle existing burnout within the profession. He also said he believed that the model of 10 minute appointments was responsible for the ‘hamster wheel’ feeling for overworked GPs. There is too much pressure on any clinician trying to see someone with complex, long-term conditions in just a 10 minute slot. It’s very, very difficult to do that.
A quick 5 minutes
The government agreed last year that GPs in England would no longer have to offer appointments lasting at least 10 minutes, but it’s been almost impossible for most Practices to offer appointments any longer than 10 minutes and many offer 5 minute telephone consultations to keep up with patient demand for contact with a GP. Although some patients just need a quick five minutes there is a growing number of patients who need much longer because of the complex nature of their health problems.
Why can’t you see your GP?
It is a relief to hear Mr Hunt acknowledge that we have too many GPs who are retiring because of having to work harder and harder with more and more people trying to see them and then not having the capacity to meet that demand. GPs are often criticised for not offering enough appointments but most NHS telephone messages say ‘if you're concerned about your symptoms contact your GP’, every poster on coughs, urine problems, blood in stool says contact your GP. GPs are to be trained to deal with mental health crises, GPs are to look out for radicalisation in children. When every organisation in the country seems to defer to ‘see your GP’ that is probably the reason why patients can't get an appointment when they need one.
With a general election just around the corner, one of the solutions that is being offered by Mr Hunt is looking at how to make it easier for GPs who have stopped practising, perhaps to go and have a family, to come back into the profession, how we to make it easier for GPs to do part-time work. Also, as part of NHS England’s five year plan, funding for occupational health services was debated with a potential that all GPs will be provided with ‘high-quality’ occupational health if they need it. Maybe it’s time for the GP to become the patient?