THE body that represents GP practices in the Portsmouth area said it is concerned about the future of surgeries as doctors are retiring early due to an increase in workloads.
The Wessex Local Medical Committee (LMC) looks after practices in south-east Hampshire.
The chief executive of the LMC said the ‘system will collapse’ if the issues are not addressed.
It comes after The News revealed on Monday that GPs are facing a ‘tidal wave’ of problems amid a struggle to recruit doctors.
It conducted two surveys – one with GPs and another with practice managers.
In the GP survey, 20 per cent (280) of the 1,400 who took part said that they plan to retire earlier than initially intended.
Of those who said they wanted to leave early, 60 per cent (168) stated that workload was the key issue.
Furthermore, almost 30 per cent of GPs indicated they intended to reduce the number of sessions they work in order to cope with the workload.
Dr Nigel Watson is the chief executive of the LMC, which is funded by GP practices and is independent of the NHS.
He said: ‘There is a massive concern over recruitment.
‘In the past 18 months the workload has increased and in the last six to nine months these concerns have exploded.
‘A GP’s day has become longer and the intensity of the workload has increased, and that’s what is taking its toll.’
Of the 35 doctors in Fareham and Gosport who took part in the survey, 13 said they planned to retire this year or earlier than originally planned due to workload.
In south-east Hampshire almost 30 per cent – 11 of 37 – said they want to leave early.
And in Portsmouth around 41 per cent – nine of the 22 GPs who took part – cited workload as a reason to retire early.
In comparison no GPs in Portsmouth cited pay as a reason to leave, one doctor said pay in south-east Hampshire and one in Fareham and Gosport.
Dr Watson added: ‘The issue here isn’t about pay, but it is about the workload.
‘The service has become massively stretched.
‘If extra resources are not found then the system will collapse.
‘I have been visiting practices on a weekly basis to help them look for a solution to cope.
‘Anybody who thinks there isn’t a problem in general practice is kidding.’
The LMC surveyed practice managers to understand the problems faced with recruitment and retention of GPs and nurses.
There are 480 practices in the Wessex region and 275 practice managers – 57 per cent – responded to the survey, which found:
n Sixty six per cent of practices had a GP vacancy in the past 12 months and 28 per cent failed to recruit;
n Fifty four per cent had a practice nurse vacancy in the past 12 months and 20 per cent have failed to recruit.
n More than 30 per cent of practices reported they are short of GPs and 27 per cent are short of practice nurses.
‘This survey was no surprise and should be a wake up call to all,’ added Dr Watson.
‘For many practices the problem of recruitment goes beyond just GPs.
‘Practice managers have been saying for some time that their job has become impossible, with more bureaucracy.
‘Practice nurses have become increasingly important to help deliver a comprehensive service within general practice.
‘Yet practice managers said it seems increasingly difficult to recruit nurses and this compounds the problems with GP recruitment and retention.
‘General practice is facing the greatest challenge in a generation.
‘Solutions need to be found urgently, if not the result would be unthinkable.’
Stress can cause GPs to make mistakes
A MEDICAL union that represents doctors is worried about its members’ health and that stress could lead to mistakes.
The Medical Protection Society (MPS) is an organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals.
It backs the views of Dr Sarah Brook, a practice partner for the Forton Medical Centre, in Gosport.
She said: ‘I have taken a pay cut – more than 10 per cent in three years.
‘But we get paid because we carry a lot of risk.
‘The more tired GPs become, the more likely we are to make a mistake.
‘Pilots are made to have a break, and similar to them an error from us would be catastrophic.’
These views are echoed by the union.
Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, medicolegal adviser at the MPS said: ‘MPS is increasingly seeing the effects of modern day healthcare on doctors.
‘Long working hours, heavy workloads, increased patient expectations, and keeping knowledge and expertise up to date can all impact on a doctor’s health.
‘Doctors are also subject to greater levels of regulation and scrutiny.
‘Stresses also result from being on the receiving end of complaints, claims for compensation by a patient, or an investigation by the General Medical Council, all of which are on the increase.
‘Stress and burnout can affect a doctor’s judgment, concentration and productivity which in turn can lead to mistakes being made.
‘Even a relatively minor error can be devastating to all those concerned, undermining the doctor-patient relationship and, potentially disrupting a doctor’s career.
‘It’s important that doctors suffering with ill health or stress get help early.
‘Being open with colleagues and seeking support from healthcare professionals is vital.
‘They can also contact their medical defence organisations or the British Medical Association who will be able to put them in contact with experts who can help them to deal with stress.’
The following ips for managing stress have been given:
n Recognise when you have reached your work load limit;
n Take time out when feeling stressed;
n Acknowledge your limitations;
n Hold regular meetings to reflect on concerns/work with colleagues;
n Try to identify aggravating factors and see if these can be addressed;
n Be open – tell someone if you feel stressed;
n Get support.