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Are our GPs in crisis?


Published at 8:51am 20th January 2018.

Are our GPs in crisis?

We ask a Weymouth GP for his thoughts. dr jon orrell


Wessex: There are national stories at the moment about overworked GPs. Is it a geographical issue, with the situation worse in some areas? And is it something that you're experiencing in your day-to-day work?

Dr Jon Orrell: There is a national crisis in General Practice. It's coming at two ends: we're not getting enough new GPs joining the profession, and there's a lot of older GPs who would've carried on working retiring early, so there is a workforce crisis. It's particularly acute because there's a big emphasis to move care out of hospitals, but that does require a fully-staffed general practice, which we haven't got.

W: What do you think of the statistics this week - that GPs are meant to see 25 patients a day, but it's actually more like 41 on average, with some seeing 70+ patients, which is well above what's classed as working at a safe level?

JO: We're quite lucky in our surgery in that we're fully doctored, but I know other practices in the town are struggling quite a lot because they haven't got enough doctors recruited, so we're mirroring the issue across the nation. 

"It's a culture of tick-boxes...it's very demoralising.

"GPs are running long surgeries, staying late and working for hours when they get home to keep up with paperwork."


W: One of the reasons cited for GPs retiring early is because they're 'burning out' - would you say that's fair?

JO: It is. And it's a shame. I think some of the problem is the additional bureaucracy that's crept in in the last ten years. Doctors like seeing patients and if we could carry on just looking after patients we'd be quite happy, but now there's a whole raft of extra organisations which have been brought in to oversee us and undertake inspections - which is all done with the best of motives and with good intentions. The sad result though is that it distracts doctors from looking after sick people and into ticking boxes on computers, and doctors get fed up and retire.

W: That echoes the reason many teachers give for leaving their profession…

JO: Yes; and police too - it's just a culture of tick-boxes and not trusting people to be professionals. Most people like teachers, doctors and nurses go into it because they're highly motivated and want to do their job. To not be trusted and to have to prove every second of the day that you are doing your job is very demoralising.

W: For GPs who are feeling overworked, presumably it's not only bad for them and their own health and happiness, but also for their patients too?

JO: Yes. In the practices I know that are struggling locally, the doctors are having to go in and do massively long surgeries; they're staying late into the evening trying to keep up with paperwork, and then when they get home, still working for several hours to keep on top of results and reports, and they just can't do it - the end result is they end up going off sick, which then magnifies the strain on the practices. Across the country there's one practice a week which is going under and folding because of the pressures.

"The problems are recruitment and retention.

"Doctors get fed up and retire & less younger GPs are entering the profession."


W: What needs to be done? Is there a solution to the problem?

JO: There is: solutions are easing the burden of over-regulation and also making it more attractive for younger GPs to enter the profession. We need work at both ends, because that's where the problems are: recruitment and retention.


Dr Orrell is a GP at the Royal Crescent surgery in Weymouth and Green party councillor.

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