Fatigue in general practice

With general practice providing care for more patients than ever before, concerns are growing that fatigue among overworked GPs is becoming so prevalent that it could jeopardise patient safety.

The RCGP has published a paper (July 2015) exploring the patient safety implications of high workloads in general practice. The paper makes radical proposals for protecting the wellbeing of GPs to prevent them becoming too exhausted to provide safe care to their patients – and the College is asking for the views of patients, GPs, other health professionals and policy makers on how we can tackle this growing problem.

Unlike professionals working in other 'safety critical' sectors, such as aviation or the oil and gas industries, GPs cannot sound a 'distress signal' when they are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with fatigue.  The College is concerned that unrelenting and increasing workload pressures are pushing dedicated GPs to their limits as they try to cope with rocketing patient numbers with diminishing resources.
Potential solutions highlighted in the paper include:

  • Regular, mandatory breaks for staff to minimise the possibility of errors
  • A mechanism to identify practices under extreme workload pressures – and for measures to be urgently implemented to relieve these pressures
  • A full-scale review of how daily pressures in general practice can be reduced – including ways in which existing bureaucracy and unnecessary workload can be safely cut.

RCGP is consulting on the ideas contained in the document, and is asking stakeholders to provide feedback by 25th August via policy@rcgp.org.uk.

Read the RCGP's paper Patient safety implications of general practice workload (July 2015) [PDF]

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