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A day in the life of a GP

A York GP has shared a day in her life to highlight the work that goes on behind the scenes at practices as staff strive to offer the best possible care to patients.  

Dr Abbie Brooks, a GP Partner at Priory Medical Group, features in the 22-minute film covering several key moments in a typical working day, starting with leaving home at 7am and wrapping up the day's admin nearly 14 hours later.

The film underlines many of the points in Dr Brooks' latest blog, in which she highlights the many and varied tasks piling up for GPs every day as they battle to provide a range of urgent and routine care for patients in the face of ever-increasing demand following the COVID-19 lockdowns.

In her blog, Dr Brooks says: "We are doing our best, but it is challenging. The job of a GP is way more than the visual part of speaking to and seeing patients. We do a lot of admin throughout the day, support allied health professionals and trainees, liaise with hospital colleagues, and it is difficult to fit it all in.

"It may not look like the waiting rooms are bursting full of people but those working in general practice are working extremely hard. Please be patient with us so that we can put all our energy into patient care."

In the video, Dr Brooks can be seen responding to urgent requests for care, consulting with patients over the phone and calling them into practices for face-to-face appointments where necessary. She also juggles coordinating requests for home visits with an ever-growing list of admin tasks and liaising with colleagues across the healthcare system.

She highlights how developments in online systems are helping groups of practices and primary care staff to manage patients' needs more flexibly than ever before – flexibility which proves much needed in the middle of the day when she discovers two colleagues have been sent home due to COVID-prevention measures.

The demand for urgent care seen in the film, and the need to prioritise those cases, underlines the plea for patience from those in need of routine care in her blog.

Dr Brooks said: "The number of patients requesting clinical care is rising month on month and we do not have the capacity to see everyone as quickly as they would like. There is a mismatch. My job is busier than I have ever known it.

"What I want patients to understand… is that we are doing our best and it is reasonable to have to wait for routine care. I think it is important that we are honest about what to expect from general practice in the current climate."

Growth in demand

She highlighted several factors behind the growth in demand, including a backlog caused by delayed procedures, tests and clinics during the pandemic; patients who now feel more comfortable coming to a GP practice; an increase in patients presenting with mental illness as a result of the pandemic and staff shortages caused by isolation affecting themselves or family.

"The simple answer to the problem of increasing demand must be to provide more clinicians? Unfortunately, it is not that easy. It takes years to train specialised staff and numbers have been falling due to several factors: workload, Brexit, retirement, change in training, pension changes.

"How about we open longer? Again, this isn’t simple – we would need to move the same number of staff and spread them thinner across a longer day or over weekends. Asking our staff to work extra hours when they are already working their socks off just isn’t fair. A lot of NHS staff have worked on their days off to help support the vaccination programme and burnout is a real threat. We need to protect and support our staff, not encourage them to work harder and longer."

While general practice aims to deal with urgent queries within one working day, Dr Brooks said: "I don’t think it is unreasonable to wait 1-2 weeks to discuss blood results, a skin problem you have had for months or a chronic wrist problem. Much of the clinical care we provide through general practice is relating to chronic (long-term) illness which doesn’t need a same-day clinical response.

"I often find when doing a routine care clinic that a patient’s symptoms have already resolved – minor illness often gets better without the need for treatment. Do consider using your pharmacy first, they are a great resource, or cancelling your appointment if you no longer need it."

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