Analysis indicates that doctors in England are currently engaging over 25% more appointments every week than the safe limit suggested by the British Medical Association.
The imposing workload that GPs must deal with is beginning to put patients at serious risk, according to the authoritative healthcare organisation.
Doctors have been forced to provide large numbers of appointments due to demand, with tiredness increasing the possibility of major errors.
NHS England has already estimated that GPs working within the NHS system delivered over 5 billion appointments per week in the previous financial year.
Based on the current FTE data, this means that the average GP conducts 145 appointments every week.
But many doctors are delivering far more than this, particularly in busy areas of the country.
Indeed, a poll conducted by GPOnline found that approximately 50% of partners had conducted 70 appointments on a single day on at least one occasion over the last 12 months.
Yet BMA guidance on safe working indicates that only 150 appointments should be conducted on a weekly basis, and this should be considered the “quantified commissioned activity of an NHS GP”.
If this were reflected across the current workforce, that would be well under one-million less than the current number.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey is in no doubt that the current workforce for GPs is fundamentally dangerous.
“It’s putting patients at risk because of the huge workload they are having to carry, and the more consultations per day, the more tired you become and the higher the risk of mistakes”.
Previous polls have discovered that around 80% of GPs consider their current workload to be unmanageable.
Vautrey has already suggested that general practice is buckling under the strain of this expectation, and also believes that longer appointments should be requisite.
“Patients are not getting the input they often need because the problems they are living with can’t be dealt with in the confines of a 10-minute consultation”.
In this context, the deputy chair suggested that the number of appointments being handled by doctors must be reduced significantly.
“This is why we have been saying for the past few years that urgent steps need to be taken to protect GPs from rising workload and burnout”.
In order to work towards this goal, the British Medical Association published detailed proposals just last year for what it described as overflow services to be delivered in clinical commissioning group areas.
This is intended to ease the pressure on general practice and equally reduce the number of appointments.