GPs today voted against a radical motion to reduce their surgery hours to between 9am to 5pm, but a shocking third were in support of the idea after a furious debate.
A proposal for GPs to reduce their core hours from the current 8am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, provoked outrage last week as Britons continue to struggle to see their family doctors.
While that motion failed, another demanding British Medical Association (BMA) leaders renegotiate GP contracts to address ‘inhuman’ workload limits did pass.
Both motions were tabled at the BMA’s Annual Conference of Representatives of local medical committees in York today.
In proposing the surgery hours motion, Dr Shaba Nabi, claimed pressure to withdraw the motion by fellow GPs, following outrage over the idea last week, showed how ‘gaslit’ the profession was.
‘Our hours are completely at odds with any sort of family life – so we continue haemorrhaging the GP workforce,’ she said.
She said a reduction in opening hours would not deny patients access to care but would, in-fact, make them safer as more GPs would want to stay in work rather than seeking a better work-life balance.
However, Dr L-J Evans urged her fellows to reject the motion, saying it would make the current situation worse.
‘Patients are really struggling to see their GPs, they’re not happy, there are just not enough GP appointments,’ she said.
‘How on earth is reducing core GP hours going to help?’.
A controversial motion for GPs to reduce their core hours to nine to five from the current current 8am to 6.30pm was defeated today
Nearly 60% of family doctors now only work three day weeks
Nearly six in 10 GPs are working three-day weeks and a third want to retire within the next five years, figures show.
A survey of more than 2,200 family doctors in England shows 58.4 per cent are working six half-day sessions or less per week — equivalent to three days.
And 33 per cent are planning to hang up their stethoscopes by 2026, according to the research led by the University of Manchester.
The team warned that a ‘worrying’ 16 per cent of GPs — who earn around £100,000 per year — under the age of 50 were already making plans to leave the profession.
GPs highlighted problems with rising workloads, increased demands from patients and having ‘insufficient time to do the job justice’.
The poll found that paperwork was causing stress as were long working hours and dealing with ‘problem patients’.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the figures should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the Government to take action to keep family doctors in the profession.
Speaking as an out-of-hours GP, she also argued practices reducing their opening hours would just shift the issue of patients seeking help to other medics.
‘We cover all the hours that practices don’t, do you think we don’t have a workload workforce mismatch?,’ she said.
‘How are we possibly going to resource the extra 12-and-a-half hours every week?’.
After a fiery debate, 61 per cent of GPs voted against the motion, but shockingly over a third backed it.
However, another motion calling on BMA leaders across the UK ‘to use data on safe workload to renegotiate the GMS contracts with workload limits in order to protect all general practice staff and patients’, did get their backing.
Dr Rachel McMahon, who proposed the motion, said the pressures being put on GPs are ‘inhuman’ with the expected workload ‘intolerable’.
‘Funding hasn’t kept up with demand, and we work harder and harder,’ she said.
In total, 70 per cent of the voting GPs backed motion, with 24 per cent against, and the remainder abstaining.
Dennis Reed, the director of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the over-60s, told MailOnline he was ‘relieved’ the vote on reducing hours hadn’t passed.
‘It would be extremely bad publicity, and would unfair on many hard working GPs either who do work beyond the hours of nine-to-five’.
‘Core hours here isn’t the big issue. The big issue is that there is insufficient coverage to provide reassurances about patient safety.’
He said both Government and GPs needed to negotiate a broader solution to improve patient access to services, particularly in areas where patient to doctor ratios were high.
The debate on GP hours and patient access has raged since Britain emerged from lockdown to find some services, particularly face-to-face appointments with doctors, have struggled to recover.
Just last month it was revealed two-thirds of GP appointments were not conducted by patients’ actual doctors in parts of England, according to the latest NSH data.
The GP Worklife survey found more than half of family doctors worked for six sessions a week or less every week in 2021, with each session being four hours and 10 minutes. Nearly a fifth of the workforce saw patients for four sessions or less, while 12.4 per cent worked for five sessions and 27.9 per cent worked for six
Just 62 per cent of appointments were made face-to-face last month. It was up on the previous month (61 per cent) but far below the more than 80 per cent being recorded in 2019
Overall, only 51 per cent of patients in the country were seen by their actual GP. 46 per cent were seen by other practice staff, including nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists
NHS figures shows just 36 per cent of patients were seen by a qualified GP in North East Lincolnshire in March, with the rest seen by other staff, including nurses, physiotherapists or even acupuncturists.
Additionally, just 62 per cent of GP appointments were made face-to-face in March.
While this was up on the previous month (61 per cent) it is far below the more than 80 per cent of appointments that were face-to-face pre-pandemic.
And the figures also show nearly one in six appointments — whether with a GP or not — were over within five minutes.
Divisions between family doctors and the public over the issue have exacerbated by data showing the nearly six in 10 GPs, who earn an average of £100,000 a year now work three-day weeks.