A British Medical Association poll of GPs which suggests a third of them are thinking about retirement in the next five years indicates ills which which will not be solved by giving the NHS more money. One in ten said they were considering working abroad.
The BBC report says doctors cited factors which had a negative impact on their commitment to being a GP including:
- excessive workload 71%,
- un-resourced work being moved into general practice 54% and
- not enough time with their patients 43%.
This suggests to me very bad morale among doctors. And in any workplace poor morale inevitably leads to low productivity. Doctors will claim their productivity is high and demonstrated by the fact they do not have enough time with patients. But it is very difficult to recognise your own low productivity.
Yet if you asked them what changes they wanted there would be a string of suggestions to make their work more efficient.
We are seeing low morale right across the public services, in the health service, education, local and central government and the emergency services. In many areas this is a result of pay freezes and redundancies coupled with feelings of not being valued by central government, local councils and their immediate bosses.
Money alone will not solve the NHS problems, But that is the only solution the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour are suggesting in their election promises.
I would be more impressed by politicians who promised to tackle public service morale, making the jobs ones to be proud of, where employees ideas are listened to. These politicians would rightly insist on monitoring the quality of work but would not centralise everything, recognise that diktats solve little and that box ticking inspections alienate.
David Cameron’s promises on GP access must be adding to concerns of hard-working GPs. Pulse, the general practice magazine, reports:
The Prime Minister said: ‘People want to be able to see their GP at a time that suits them and their family. That is why we will make sure that everyone can see a GP seven days a week by 2020.
‘We will also support thousands more GP practices to stay open longer – giving millions of patients better access to their doctor.’
The magazine continues:
GPs and leading academics have already warned that extending GP access in this way will make general practice more overstretched and could subsequently reduce the continuity of patient care.
A Pulse survey in April revealed that more than half of GPs believe that the Government’s move towards seven-day GP access will negatively affect the safety of patient care.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This announcement fails to grasp the reality of a GP service struggling under extreme strain and without the capacity to meet current demands, resulting in patients already waiting too long to see their GP.
From the middle of Suffolk where I live Cameron’s promise of 12 hours a day access, seven days a week, to a GP looks daft. It would not be an efficient use of doctors. If the promise was to revert to an out-of-hours serve run and staffed by the county’s doctors together with some extra surgery hours to suit people who work away from the village I think there would be a lot more public support.
But we need to listen to what GPs themselves have to suggest about ways to improve the service.