Working as a full-time family doctor is becoming 'undoable'

Working as a full-time family doctor is so stressful it’s becoming ‘undoable’, according to Royal College of GPs chairman Professor Martin Marshall

  • Prof Martin Marshall, Royal College of GPs chairman, described the ‘crazy’ stress
  • Think-tank found one in 20 trainee GPs wanted to work full-time after ten years
  • Prof Marshall said trainees not working full-time wasn’t due to being workshy
  • He added: ‘I think what this signals is that the job of a GP is undoable full-time’

Being a full-time GP has become ‘undoable’ thanks to the pressure of the job, the head of the profession has warned.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, described the stress they face as ‘crazy’.

The King’s Fund think-tank has also found that just one in 20 trainee GPs intended to work full-time within a decade of qualifying after it asked 840 about their career plans.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, described the stress they face as ‘crazy’ (file photo)

It comes days after the Mail reported that fewer than a third of GPs were working full-time in surgeries as patients struggle to make appointments.

Professor Marshall, a GP in east London, said the unwillingness of trainees to work full-time was not because millennial medics were more workshy, adding: ‘I think what this signals is that the job of a GP is now undoable on a full-time basis.

200 calls… but still no appointment

A patient made 200 phone calls in one day in a failed bid to secure a GP appointment.

Ferry worker Gareth Humphreys said he had been forced to battle for a slot at two health centres taken over by a scandal-hit health trust. 

He called for action after two out of three surgeries in Holyhead, Anglesey, north Wales, were left without permanent GPs. 

The two affected centres have been taken over by the Welsh NHS’s troubled Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which is in special measures and run by the Labour-controlled Welsh government. 

Mr Humphreys was attending a meeting between the board and councillors to complain. 

Wyn Thomas, an assistant director on the board, told the meeting it was trying to recruit GPs.

‘The idea that we can see 50, 60, 70 patients a day, five days a week, is crazy. It is difficult to be as sharp on your 50th patient of the day, or your 200th blood test.

‘Each one involves a clinical decision, it carries a risk, which is an innately stressful decision to make; it carries a degree of anxiety that you might make a mistake or misdiagnosis. Decisions can be life or death.’

The ‘intensity of the working day’ was the prime reason trainees said they did not want to work full-time. 

Professor Marshall said: ‘They don’t want the divorce rates or the alcohol rates of their predecessors. But it is also about getting to enjoy their job and take professional satisfaction from it.’

A full-time GP partner earns £113,000 a year on average, but most of the young GPs polled by The King’s Fund said they planned to work up to three days a week, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Many GPs have ‘portfolio’ careers, mixing surgery time with private work, research, teaching or running a business. Beccy Baird, lead author of The King’s Fund study, said: ‘GP workload is incredibly intense – too intense to work full-time. Seeing a patient every ten minutes, or having phone calls with them for eight hours a day plus four hours follow-up – that’s not sustainable.’

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