Majority of GPs struggling to provide sufficient level of care

MORE than 80 per cent of GPs have struggled to provide a patient with a sufficient level of care in 2020, according to new figures from the General Medical Council.

Just over two fifths (43 per cent) of those GPs said they experienced this every week.

These figures are notably higher than the overall statistics which show that 65 per cent of doctors have found it difficult to provide a sufficient level of care this year. Of those, a quarter have experienced it at least weekly.

The responses emerged in the GMC’s State of medical education and practice 2020 report (SoMEP). The regulator described the figures as a "worrying sign" that "patient care is affected to this extent".

The report noted that the responses from GPs echoed those made in the 2020 Barometer survey. There, GPs highlighted challenges in making referrals for patients, ordering tests and linking up with secondary care while some services were paused during the pandemic.

SoMEP also noted the close association between a doctor’s risk of burnout and patient care. Half (49 per cent) of doctors who regularly struggle to cope with their workloads said they found it difficult to provide a sufficient level of care at least once a week in 2020.

Amongst the report’s other findings was that black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors were less likely than their white colleagues to report positive improvements in workplace teamwork during the pandemic.

While 89 per cent of doctors said they experienced at least one positive change during the pandemic, the figures for BME doctors were notably lower. For example, positive changes to teamworking were reported by 68 per cent of white doctors, but only 55 per cent of BME doctors. Positive change in the sharing of knowledge and experience across the medical profession was reported by 61 per cent of white doctors compared to 46 per cent of BME doctors.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey paid tribute to the hard work and commitment of healthcare professionals during the pandemic, but said it remained a concern that BME doctors were less likely than their white colleagues to experience positive workplace changes.

He said: “We know BME doctors too often lack the supportive and compassionate leadership that is required to thrive. Doctors of all grades, and from all backgrounds, need and deserve the same levels of support if they are to provide the best possible care for patients, in what will continue to be difficult months ahead.”

He said compassionate and supportive leadership was key going forward, adding: “We must all build on the flexible approach that has been a necessity this year.”

Responding to the report, MDDUS head of medical division Dr John Holden said: “We can be very proud of the extraordinary effort the medical profession has made in response to Covid-19 and the positive changes that have emerged in response to the urgent need to provide high quality care to patients.”

But he said the report also raised causes for concern and reiterated the Union’s calls for action on a fair regulatory process for dealing with Covid-related issues.

He added: “MDDUS has called on the government, regulators and the UK’s law officers to ensure the processes by which claims, complaints and regulatory issues raised by Covid-19 are tackled fairly, reflecting the unique and challenging circumstances clinicians are working in.

“We are encouraged by recent statements by the GMC which will go a long way to recognising the need to create a ‘collective memory’ of Covid-19 to inform how any future complaint or regulatory process is handled. We believe it is imperative the justice system now follows suit.”

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