A survey carried out by the National Association of General Practitioners in association with Gorilla Survey has shown that worsening working conditions in general practice are having a dramatic impact on both GPs and patients.

A total of 84% of GPs who responded to the survey stated that their mental health has suffered as a result of worsening working conditions. Almost half (49%) of GPs are currently working over 50 hours per week, with one in five working more than 60 hours per week.

Over 60% now see more than 15 patients in an average clinic session and 21% see more than 20 patients on average in each session.

More than a third (35%) reported that their patient consultation times have reduced in the last 12 months. Almost half of respondents said they now have an average of less than 12 minutes to spend with each patient.

An overwhelming majority (94%) feel that consultation times will be reduced further if free GP care for under-6’s is introduced and 91% say the introduction of the currently proposed under-6’s scheme will negatively impact their ability to provide equitable care to all patients.

GPs were substantially in favour of free GP care which is based on clinical need rather than age. Eighty-seven per cent stated that they would support the introduction of a properly resourced system of free health care based solely on clinical need rather than age profiles.

Commenting on the results, NAGP President Dr Conor Mcgee said: “These figures show how much pressure general practice is under at the moment. The savage cuts that have been imposed on the sector have meant that many practices have lost support staff like practice nurses. As a result, GPs are seeing more and more patients themselves. The whole situation is having a serious effect on patient consultation times and on GPs personally.”

“GPs are really struggling to sustain the same-day service that general practice is known for, and of course that is having an emotional impact on GPs. Generally a GP will have cared for a patient over many decades and that creates a relationship that isn’t seen anywhere else in medicine. Trying to maintain the gold-standard care you have always provided to that patient within the current environment of scant resources naturally takes its toll. The situation is detrimental to our patients and those who are charged with caring for them,” Dr Mcgee added.

“The NAGP has repeatedly warned that general practice is on its knees. Unless additional resources are put in place immediately, the effects will be catastrophic. Over 90% of all day-to-day patient interactions take place in general practice but the vast majority of funding continues to be ploughed into the hospital system. Investing in general practice will not only safeguard the high-quality service that the sector is renowned for, but will also have significant cost-saving effects for the health sector in general,” said NAGP CEO, Chris Goodey.

The survey was carried out among GPs over a 5-day period between November 7th and 12th. A total of 660 responses were received. The project was conducted independently by Gorilla Survey, one of Ireland’s primary care survey providers. The NAGP will be presenting the full results of the survey to its members at the 2014 AGM which takes place at the Strand Hotel, Limerick on November 14th and 15th.

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For further information or to arrange an interview, contact Andrew Mernagh of Lotus PR on 087-2911028 or andrew@lotuspr.ie