Older GPs 'should stop work at 4pm'

Older GPs 'should stop work at 4pm'

Older GPs should be allowed to stop work at 4pm "when their concentration goes", official guidance suggests. The advice claims that tailoring working arrangements to suit “individual needs” will enable doctors to “survive and thrive” in their profession, amid increasing workloads.

The recommendations, issued by the NHS England Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire area team, urges family doctors to "look after each other" by staggering shifts.

Pulse reports that the guidance says: “Doctors who work in a flexible practice where consideration is given to their individual needs appear to fare better than those that have a rigid attitude to patient lists and equitable workload.

“An example of this is the older partner with adult children who is happy to work early extended hours in the practice but finds that after 4pm his concentration goes, complements the younger doctor with primary school aged children who needs to do the morning school run, but is happy to work later."

It adds: “We are all working harder than we ever have before and if we want to thrive and survive it is essential that we look after ourselves and each other.”

Dr Peter Swinyard, 59, chairman of the Family Doctor Association, said this was a “silly season” idea, but conceded that “there is some truth hiding in it somewhere”.

“The job we do is so much more complex and complicated than it ever was, and it takes an immense amount of concentration to do the job well,” Dr Swinyard, a GP in Swindon, said.

“I don’t know any GPs who have the luxury of a lunch break, we are working flat out from around 8am and by the time you get to the afternoon your concentration lags."

Dr Swinyard, 59, suggested that “older” doctors should mean those aged 55 and over, although he added that "we all age at different speeds".

“Inevitably, as you get older your ability to cope with such things lapses," he said. "Patients deserve to be seen by someone who is alert and awake and ready to go, so it would be a good idea to have staggered shifts.”

However, he said that the idea was “so good it will never happen”.

“You can’t just walk away at 4pm and say ‘I’ve had enough thank you’ when patients still need to be seen,” he said.

“A lot of work that we used to refer to the hospitals we now do ourselves. We have a shortage of GPs, we can’t just magic up more doctors.”

This comes after the chief executive of NHS England’s announcement that patients will be offered chemotherapy and dialysis in GP surgeries as part of an overhaul of the way services are run. 

Simon Stevens said it was a "very radical" attempt to redesign the way services are run, and lift pressures on the struggling NHS.

By Camilla Turner,

The Telegraph, Monday 16 March 2015

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