GPs have voted against a radical motion to reduce their surgery hours to between 9am to 5pm, but a shocking third were in support of the idea after a furious debate.
A proposal for GPs to reduce their core hours from the current 8am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, provoked outrage last week as Britons continue to struggle to see their family doctors.
While that motion failed, another demanding British Medical Association (BMA) leaders renegotiate GP contracts with ‘unhuman’ workload limits did pass.
Both motions were tabled at the BMA’s Annual Conference of Representatives of local medical committees in York today.
In proposing the the surgery hours motion, Dr Shaba Nabi, claimed pressure to withdraw the motion by fellow GPs, following outrage over the idea last week, showed how ‘gaslit’ the profession was.
‘Our hours are completely at odds with any sort of family life – so we continue haemorrhaging the GP workforce,’ she said.
She argued a reduction in opening hours would not deny patients access to care but would make them safer as more GPs would want to stay in work rather than retiring for a better work-life balance.
However, Dr L-J Evans urged her fellows to reject the motion, saying it would make a the situation worse.
‘Patients are really struggling to see their GPs, they’re not happy, there are just not enough GP appointments,’ she said.
‘How on earth is reducing core GP hours going to help?’.
Speaking as an out-of-hours GP she also argued if practices were to reduce their opening hours would just shift the issue of patients seeking help to other professionals.
‘We cover all the hours that practices don’t, do you think we don’t have a workload workforce mismatch?,’ she said.
‘How are we possibly going to resource the extra 12-and-a-half hours every week?’.
After a fiery debate, 61 per cent of GPs voted against the motion, but shockingly over a third backed it.
However, another motion calling on BMA leaders across the UK ‘to use data on safe workload to renegotiate the GMS contracts with workload limits in order to protect all general practice staff and patients’ did get their backing.
Dr Rachel McMahon said the pressures being put on GPs are ‘inhuman’ and the workload ‘intolerable’.
‘Funding hasn’t kept up with demand, and we work harder and harder,’ she said.
Dennis Reed, the director of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the over-60s, told MailOnline he was ‘relieved’ the vote on reducing hours hadn’t passed.
‘It would be extremely bad publicity, and would unfair on many hard working GPs either who do work beyond the hours of nine-to-five’.
‘Core hours here isn’t the big issue. The big issue is that there is insufficient coverage to provide reassurances about patient safety.’
The debate on GP hours and patient access has raged since Britain emerged from lockdown to find some services, particularly face-to-face appointments with doctors, have struggled to recover.
The GP Worklife survey found more than half of family doctors worked for six sessions a week or less every week in 2021, with each session being four hours and 10 minutes. Nearly a fifth of the workforce saw patients for four sessions or less, while 12.4 per cent worked for five sessions and 27.9 per cent worked for six
Just 62 per cent of appointments were made face-to-face last month. It was up on the previous month (61 per cent) but far below the more than 80 per cent being recorded in 2019
Just last month it was revealed two-thirds of GP appointments were not conducted by patients’ actual doctors in parts of England according to the latest NSH data.
NHS figures shows just 36 per cent of patients were seen by a qualified GP in North East Lincolnshire in March, with the rest seen by other staff, including nurses, physiotherapists or even acupuncturists.
Additionally, just 62 per cent of GP appointments were made face-to-face in March.
While this was up on the previous month (61 per cent) it is far below the more than 80 per cent pre-pandemic.
And the figures also show nearly one in six appointments — whether with a GP or not — were over within five minutes.
Divisions between family doctors and the public over the issue have exacerbated by data showing the nearly six in 10 GPs, who earn an average of £100,000 a year now work three-day weeks.