Nearly three quarters of GPs need funding for cover as morale slides, BMA finds

5th November 2020 by NASGP

Nearly three quarters of GPs need funding for cover as morale slides, BMA finds

A survey of 7,800 doctors by the BMA has found that 71% of GPs need more funding for additional sessions.

Of 1,213 GPs surveyed, 867 said their practice team would need funding for additional sessions or overtime in the next few months. 

The survey also found that three-quarters of respondents were worried about their ability to cope with demand from patients for Covid-19 symptoms, and more than half were worried about their ability to cope with demand from patients with non-Covid symptoms. 

Technical problems continue to hold GPs back at work. Some 22% of GPs said they were not able to work remotely at present – nearly half of whom were not enabled to do so, even though it would be safe and appropriate to do so.

The BMA also asked GPs about plans in local health systems to triage, see and treat ‘backlog’ – patients with care cancelled, delayed or disrupted by the pandemic. Some 15% said they had already started work on the backlog, and a further 12% had plans in place. But 72% of GPs had not been advised of plans, or started work on the backlog. 

Survey responses suggest that mental health worries including depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, and emotional distress might be driving GPs’ need for support and their changing attitudes to work. A shocking 10% of GPs did not take any leave from March to September – either out of choice, or because leave was forbidden or cancelled – and 32% took leave, but could not take as much as they needed to. 

Covid-19 self-isolation and sick leave meant that 69% had had to cover absences themselves, with just 38% of GPs booking additional locum cover. Looking at the coming months, three quarters of GPs reported feeling ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ anxious about working during the autumn and winter. 

‘System under strain’

Pandemic working has also radically changed GPs’ career goals. Half of the GPs surveyed said they were more likely to work fewer hours over the next year, 29% were more likely to take early retirement, and 15% felt more likely to become a GP locum. 

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of NASGP, said: “This is a very timely survey from the BMA and should be applauded for revealing – while there is still time to do something about it – a system under severe strain, and that now even looks at risk of collapse as the pandemic progresses into next year. 

“This survey paints a picture of a highly dedicated GP workforce, but very little in terms of plans in place to support their welfare or plan for the future. In addition to showing a significant impact of remote working on workload, 45% of those surveyed are also more likely to leave salaried and partner roles to retire or work as GP locums. 

“NHS England needs to take urgent measures, including extra funding, to make sure the GP workforce is supported properly.” 

You can read the survey in full online.

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