Family doctor work 11-hour days on average, but Devon fairs better than rest of UK

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Across the country family doctors are warning they are seeing more patients than they think is safe.

Fortunately for us, the North, east and west Devon have more family doctors per head than average, new figures have shown, having gained GPs in recent years.

Recent reports show that GP numbers have fallen across the UK over the last five years.

NHS Digital data shows there was the equivalent of 632 full-time GPs in the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group in December 2018.

It means there were an estimated 70 GPs for every 100,000 people in the CCG's area - the average for England is 62.

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It is a significant increase on the number of GPs when the NHS first published comparable data, in September 2015 - there were 546 in the area at the time.

An analysis by the Nuffield Trust for the BBC found that the number of GPs per 100,000 people across the UK has fallen, from nearly 65 in 2014 to 60 last year - the first sustained fall of this kind since the late 1960s.

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Another study by Pulse magazine found that over-tired doctors were sometimes seeing twice as many patients as they should.

It meant that GPs were struggling to be sympathetic to the patients they were seeing during appointments.

The Pulse poll of 1,681 GPs for BBC's Panorama found that they are working an average 11-hour day, including eight hours of clinical care and three hours of admin.

On average, each GP dealt with 41 patients per day, despite saying 30 was a safe number.

One in 10 dealt with 60 or more patients - double the safe limit.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said she is one of those affected by heavy workloads.

She said: "In my own practice recently, I had a 12-hour day and 100 patient contacts.

"GPs across the UK will tell similar stories."

Professor Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the RCGP, said there is a risked tired GPs could make mistakes, and high numbers of patients added to this.

"You could miss a result or misread a letter, or you don't focus on the right symptom or ask the right question," she said.

A report in March from the King's Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation predicted that GP shortages in England will almost triple to 7,000 by 2023-24.

It said the Government would miss its target to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 and the only way to cope with the growing workload was to put more pharmacists and physiotherapists into GP practices.

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