The Royal College of General Practitioners has said more GPs will leave the profession as they are trying to cram far too much into 10 minute appointments, not only trying to deliver holistic care, but fitting in the increasing number of things they are expected to do during a consultation.

The response follows the publication of the Health Foundation's latest report on GP role satisfaction 'Feeling the Strain: What the Commonwealth Fund's 2019 international survey of general practitioners means for the UK.'

The Commonwealth Fund surveyed 13,200 primary care physicians across 11 countries between January and June 2019. This included 1,001 GPs from the UK. The data and reports on the findings  found that in some aspects of care, the UK performs strongly and is an international leader. Almost all UK GPs surveyed use electronic medical records, and use of data to review and improve care is relatively high.

It also highlighted areas of major concern for the NHS. Just 6% of UK GPs report feeling ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their workload – the lowest of any country surveyed. Only France has lower overall GP satisfaction with practising medicine. GPs in the UK also report high stress levels, and feel that the quality of care that they and the wider NHS can provide is declining.

A high proportion of surveyed UK GPs plan to quit or reduce their working hours in the near future. 49% of UK GP respondents plan to reduce their weekly clinical hours in the next three years (compared to 10% who plan to increase them).

In addition, UK GPs continue to report shorter appointment lengths than the majority of their international colleagues. Just 5% of UK GPs surveyed feel ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the amount of time they can spend with their patients, significantly lower than the satisfaction reported by GPs in the other 10 countries surveyed.

Cannot deliver holistic care in ten minute appointments

Workload pressures are growing across general practice, and UK GPs report that they are doing more of all types of patient consultations (including face-to-face, telephone triage and telephone consulting). Policymakers expect GPs to be offering video and email consultations to patients who want them in the near future, but the survey suggests that this is currently a long way from happening. Only 11% of UK GPs report that their surgeries provide care through video consultation.

Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It's incredibly concerning that GPs in the UK are more dissatisfied with the job, on many levels, than family doctors in other countries. However, it comes as no surprise as general practice has been operating under immense resource and workforce pressure for some time.

"GPs want to do their best for their patient but as more people are living with multiple, long-term conditions, standard 10-minute consultations are rarely appropriate to deliver the complex, high-quality care our patients deserve. We often find ourselves trying to cram far too much into 10 minutes, not only trying to deliver holistic care, but fitting in the increasing number of things we are expected to do during a consultation. No GP wants to hurry an appointment, and the result of having to doing so is stressful and dissatisfying for the GP and can leave patients feeling as though they have been rushed. 

"We need more time with our patients. The College has called for 15-minute appointments as standard and longer for those patients who need it – but offering longer consultations means offering fewer and patients are already waiting too long for an appointment.

"We need the Government to deliver their pledges of more funding for general practice and 6,000 more GPs as a matter of urgency – and we look to the forthcoming NHS People Plan for details on their strategy to tackle GP workload and retain our existing GP workforce, so that the NHS remains fit for the future."