April 13, 2022 5.00 pm

Medical director told to “see a doctor” over safety concerns from overworked GPs

Majority of GPs fear patients “not always safe”

A councillor has told a medical director to “see a doctor” after they raised concerns over GP’s “mental anguish” and potential bad decisions due to being overworked.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, the medical director for the Lincolnshire Local Medical Committee, which represents 450 GPs in the county, told Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee that GPs in the county were overstretched.

A recent poll of Great Britain found a majority of GPs feared patients were “not always safe” in their surgeries, with residents facing up to six months wait to see a doctor.

“It’s estimated that it’s safe for doctors to deal with 25 to 35 clinical decisions in a day and are regularly doing significantly more than that,” said Dr Sharrock.

“I sometimes do 80 to 90 clinical decisions within a day and I do wonder at what point do I start making bad decisions and cutting corners and risking patients?

“It also risks my wellbeing, because if I make a mistake that ends in a complaint it ends in mental torture for me and my colleagues and it also means I’m more likely to burn out and leave the profession earlier.”

Dr Sharrock called for the councillors to support health services by lobbying bosses in government to properly fund the workforce, as well as helping to assauge negative images of GPs.

However, Councillor Colin Matthews told Dr Sharrock, who is leaving the LLMC to move into a national role: “I think you need to go and see a doctor because the negativity you are putting forward suggests you may not be a well person at the moment.

“I’m not being flippant, but your whole presentation has been tinged with negativity.”

Dr Sharrock thanked the councillor for his concern but responded that he was “actually really happy”.

“I love my work,” he said, adding that he took great care and often exercised on his bike.

Despite some sympathy with Dr Sharrock’s position, councillors were heavily critical of the service GPs were providing.

Several said the biggest complaint they had was residents not being able to get through to surgeries.

They accused receptionists of acting as “gatekeepers” doing their utmost to prevent patients from getting appointments and criticised a lack of face-to-face appointments.

They also criticised some surgeries for opening two or three days a week, despite Dr Sharrock telling them GPs were still working more than full-time hours plus out of hours jobs.

Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group bosses said the service was considered safe but that improvements were being made, full of praise for new technologies/ways of working.

Sarah Jane-Mills, Chief Operating Officer, told councillors: “GP Services are safe. Our GP services across Lincolnshire are good.

“The CQC and ourselves have got a very close relationship with all of our GP practices and where we have concerns we are proactively working with them.”

She promoted online services and alternatives such as pharmacists, however, councillors said there had even been problems with those, with some GPs turning off the Ask My GP service due to high demand.