Introduce a working time directive for GPs in the UK

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In the UK 430 doctors have taken their lives in the last four years – that’s around 9 suicides per month. This has to stop, and I am inviting GPs to join me, starting today - on World Mental Health Day, to call for urgent, life-saving change. 

What's the situation?

Pilots are required by law to adhere to maximum flying hours each week, as are HGV drivers for driving, and both professionals are expected to take minimum rest periods between sessions. Why? Because other people’s lives are in their hands. Mistakes made by either of these professionals can be deadly. Each GP in the UK is responsible for the health and wellbeing of thousands of patients, so why are there no legal limitations set around safe working hours?

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) 48-hour week was introduced to prevent employers requesting employees to work excessively long hours, in the interest of health and safety. In General Practice the EWTD does not apply to many due to their self-employed status.

A lack of ‘safe working hours’ for GPs is the main cause of the major GP shortage in the UK, as GPs are burning out, leaving the profession, and fewer doctors are choosing to become a GP for just that reason. The government is attempting to deliver 5,000 new full-time GPs to the UK by 2020. Today a full-time GP is expected to do as many sessions as it takes to meet patient demand - this often results in 10 sessions per week (5 days x 12-14 hours) resulting in a 70-hour week, which is not sustainable. The GPs being employed as part of the government's initiative are burning out at a faster rate than ever before.

There have been mass failings in attracting and retaining NHS GPs - it is the biggest challenge in primary care, and as a GP I can see the Department for Health making the same mistakes year after year. Before it is too late, it’s time for GPs who love the NHS and their profession to come together and start an uprising to stop GPs leaving the NHS.

Safe & Sustainable GPs - what Government must do

Supporters of the uprising are requesting the following actions from the Department of Health:

1)  A new government-funded study into the maximum number of sessions a GP should work per week / month that is sustainable and safe. This will assess the physical and mental strain on GPs today.

2)  Introduce an increased 15-minute appointment time, to enable GPs to treat patients effectively.

3)  A new General Practice Working Time Directive (GPWTD) to introduce a maximum working week / month.

4)  A new promise from Government to employ an updated number of GPs, based on the new GPWTD.

5)  An official channel for NHS GPs who are completing the GPWTD role to access and apply for non-patient-facing roles in the NHS and beyond to combat fatigue with variety.   

Please act today and save NHS GPs. 

Dr Anshu Bhagat

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