Concerns about the heavy workloads facing GPs are sadly nothing new, but new research highlighting how they are now facing “saturation point” provides yet another alarming indication of the health of doctors’s surgeries around the country.
Researchers have discovered GPs are ordering over three times the amount of tests for patients compared to 15 years ago; an increase put down to factors including changes to NHS services and a greater expectation by patients that they should receive such tests.
The consequences are two-fold; reviewing more results is increasing pressure on already over-stretched doctors, while the ordering of diagnostics for patients is costing the health service almost £3bn per year.
The new findings come after the British Medical Association called earlier this year for a cap on the number of patients a GP sees each day to prevent unsafe working levels.
The situation is undoubtedly a difficult one; many thousands of patients already face considerable waiting times to get appointments, while local surgeries are vital in assessing people’s illnesses and preventing unnecessary attendances at hospital A&E departments which are all facing their own considerable challenges.
There are no easy remedies to the situation but as with any illness, ignoring the warning signs makes effective treatment more difficult in the long-run. As such, more must be done to invest in primary care and train up more doctors – especially given the extensive numbers of GPs close to retirement – to ensure the system does not reach breaking point.