Increased Funding Aimed At Reducing GP Stress
The Law Of... improving work conditions for GPsRecent reports by online health publication, Pulse, have highlighted how some planned changes to the medical profession could reduce GP's stress levels and increase their capacity.
Questioning the legitimacy of the plans, Ramune Mickeviciute – Paralegal on the Medical Negligence team at Simpson Millar LLP
– looks at what the changes mean and how they could affect patients.
GP Mental Health Support
One of the reports highlights how stress levels and GP 'burnout'
could be affected by a delayed implementation of a £16million GP mental health support service
The service, which is designed to provide support for GPs facing mental health problems – namely stress and burnout – because of their workload, has been pushed back by a month due to managers being slow to launch the procurement process.NHS England's GP Forward View
first pledged that procurement for the mental health support service would begin in June 2016, with a view to introducing the service across England from December 2016.
Due to the one month delay in the opening of the procurement process, it is anticipated that stressed GPs will now have to wait until January 2017 to access the service.
Despite the delay, the service should be seen as a positive step for GPs, as Ramune explains:"The £16 million project that involves offering GPs mental support service is due to be launched in January 2017, which – despite being behind schedule – is a serious investment.""The service should ensure that GPs receive the support they require to combat stress and reduce the risk of burnout.""Of course, the knock on effect of less stressed GPs will assumedly be a better standard of care for patients and it is likely that NHS England have committed these funds so that GPs can combat stress and improve focus."
Accompanying the news that the GP mental health service will be delayed were comments by the chair of the General Practitioners Committee UK (GPC UK), who claimed that government support for indemnity fees could increase GP capacity by 20%
It is argued that if GP concerns over the cost of indemnity fees were reduced then they could tend to more patients and, without the requirement to pick up their own indemnity fee, more GPs would be willing to work out of office hours
(which is a practice that generally brings much higher indemnity fees
While NHS England has unveiled its own funding package
to help reduce indemnity costs to GPs, it is claimed that government involvement could further encourage GPs to take on more work.
The Government has been surveying GPs on their indemnity fees, so a decision could be made to provide funds to cover the cost of indemnity, which is the price for medical insurance that GPs need to pay to practice.
Ramune outlines why government reimbursement for indemnity fees may not actually lead to an increased service for patients:"The reduced burden of indemnity is another move that could help GPs to experience lower stress levels; however in this instance it may not have the same increase in level of care as the GP mental health service.""The baseline figure for the GPC recommendations is the increased capacity for GPs, this means that their workload could increase by 20%.""With GPs already working tirelessly to provide a growing population with a high level of care, an increased workload of 20% could have an adverse effect on patient treatment.""It seems ironic that at a time when the GP mental health service is launching to reduce stress, workloads could be increasing and with an even higher capacity it seems uncertain whether GPs will even have the time to access the new mental health service launching in January.""On the other hand, removing the burden of indemnity could encourage more people into the profession and could increase the number of GPs at a time when recruitment has slowed. This benefit only goes to show the precarious nature of the industry and the adverse effect indemnity fees are having on the profession.""Despite this, moving the burden of responsibility from GPs to the Government does not feel like a forward thinking approach, especially as the insurers that provide medical indemnity have claimed funding pledges such as this won't fix the indemnity crisis.""Other suggestions include opening the medical insurance business up to the whole market of insurers, thus increasing competition and lowering prices; such a move was successful in the legal profession back in 2000."
Whatever decisions are made regarding indemnity fees it is important that organisations, whether they are in the medical profession or part of government, are always considering the standard of care provided to patients.
While most GPs offer a high standard of care and patients are treated with professionalism and accuracy, overworked GPs can lead to medical negligence
If you believe that your standard of care has dropped below an acceptable level you can make a formal complaint to your surgery
. They are then required to investigate the case under the NHS's Duty of Candour.
If formal complaints fail to resolve the issue then getting legal advice could help to escalate your concerns. The medical negligence team at Simpson Millar are able to provide simple and effective advice on the best way to resolve a medical negligence complaint