Increasing workloads and overwork for GPs present the same types of safety risks to patients as overtired airline reports according to Dr Maureen Baker chair of the Royal College of GPs.
In a recent report Baker describes ‘GP fatigue’ and calls for steps to be taken to tackle what she perceives as a patient safety issue.
Statistics show that services provided by GPs are coming under increasing strain with a 19% increase in GP consultations over a 5 year period between 2008/9 – 2013/14. At the same time, fewer doctors are opting to specialise as GPs and many older and experienced GPs are retiring early from the profession. The current shortfall is estimated at 3,300 with predictions that this will have risen to 8,000 by 2020.
This is against a background of calls from the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt for 7 day working across the NHS to include GPs.
Potential problems of overtired doctors highlighted include:
- Failure or delay in diagnosing illness or misdiagnosis resulting in overtreatment
- Mistaking one patient for another
- Prescribing errors
- Errors in immunisation
- Failure to correctly monitor those with long term health problems
There are currently no safety nets for monitoring GPs. Baker says ‘…unless we disrupt patient services – which is the last thing that GPs want to do – we currently have no strategies in place to prevent and reduce the risk of patient harm that might arise from having tired, overworked doctors and practice staff.’
The Department of Health’s response indicates that they have a 5 year plan to reduce administrative burdens on GPs and plans to meet the ever growing need given the pressures on GP services.
We have a specialist team of Clinical Negligence solicitors and if you or a family member have been affected by the issues raised in this article, please contact Marguarita Tyne