Over-Stretched GPs Have Less Than Half the Time They Need to Assess Their Patients Properly

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57% of GPs say that they have less time to see patients than five years ago, 43% say a lack of time with patients affects their ability to diagnose, 50% say a lack of time with patients has affected their ability to do their job.

”Our research shows that GPs are over stretched and this can affect the quality of support they are able to offer their patients" Dr. Hugh Laing, Consultant for Health of The Workplace and a practising GP

Doctors are finding their ability to assess patients is being compromised because they aren’t able to spend enough time with them. This is according to new research released today by Aviva UK Health, http://www.aviva.co.uk/health.

Over half of the GPs questioned (57%) in the Aviva study say that they have less time to see their patients than they did five years ago. Worryingly, only 7% of GPs feel a lack of time with a patient does not affect their ability to do their job.

While nine in ten GPs (89%) feel that ideally they’d take up to 20 minutes to see each patient, current practice is to schedule doctors’ appointments for 10 minutes each, falling way short of the mark. It’s not just GPs who are unhappy with the situation. Additional research conducted by Aviva UK Health last month showed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers thought that NHS appointments were always rushed.

This potentially dangerous situation is already making service standards suffer. Half of GPs (50%) say a lack of time with their patients definitely affects their ability to do their job and a further 43% say it makes it harder for them to come to an accurate diagnosis.

The research also reveals that the internet is playing an increasingly important role for GPs, with 96% of the GPs questioned for the study claiming to access web search engines on a daily basis for their work and 85% admitting to using these online resources as an aid to diagnosis.
While only 5% say they do this because they are pressed for time, this reflects a continuing trend for the greater use of technology during a consultation. It is already known that patients and doctors can find the computer a distraction and with time pressures the situation can be worsened.

The GP survey is an integral part of Aviva’s annual “Health of the Workplace” report. Now in its 4th year, Health of the Workplace canvases GP, employer and employee opinions on topical issues in order to uncover and raise awareness of important issues relating to health. This information is then used to suggest solutions which will help both employers and employees.

Dr. Hugh Laing, Consultant for Health of The Workplace and a practising GP comments:

“At Aviva we are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our customers and we recognise the important role that GPs have in delivering this. To enable us to do this it is vital that we understand the concerns which affect both consumers and the healthcare industry in general.

”Our research shows that GPs are over stretched and this can affect the quality of support they are able to offer their patients. Web based technology has revolutionised the way we all work and fast access to high quality information can be an invaluable support for patients and professionals but ultimately there is no substitute for a thorough assessment by a qualified GP and from our research this is clearly not happening in many cases. As such we urge the new coalition Government to support and work with GPs to ensure delivery of the right care for patients.

“While the coalition Government has outlined its health policies focusing on improving access to GPs and offering a wider choice of doctors, both patients and GPs are clearly demanding a better GP experience, and access times and choice are just one piece of this jigsaw.

“Aviva UK Health believes that people should have the peace of mind that they can talk to a GP for as long as they need at any time of the day or night. As such, we give our private health insurance customers access to a confidential GP helpline offering advice and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition to this, we offer a range of occupational health services and benefits to help keep our customers in good health.”

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Ursula Delaney
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