OVERWORKED GPs are suffering “burn-out” and some fear the closure of practices, a major survey of county doctors has found.

The study of more than 200 county medics by Oxfordshire GPs has led to the county’s NHS watchdog organisation warning patient care could suffer if action is not taken.

And one GP has said the current crisis could do “irreparable damage” to the service.

County results show 71 per cent said one or more GPs in their practice had “burn-out due to increasing and unsustainable pressure of work”.

And 79 per cent were unsure or believed their practice would not exist in 10 years.

The survey was carried out by Andrew McHugh, practice manager of Banbury’s Horsefair Surgery, with four GPs from the practice and two in Bicester.

He said: “It is now a matter of urgency that the root causes of the crisis are identified and addressed.”

Rachel Coney, chief executive of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the official NHS watchdog, said it was “very concerned” but “not surprised”.

She said: “It is imperative for patients that steps are taken to alleviate these before the service is in such a state of crisis that patient care is seriously affected.”

Patients could struggle to see GPs if enough leave, she said, and this would damage attempts to relieve pressure on hospital departments like accident and emergency wards. On Friday, we reported how county A&E departments are not meeting a key waiting target, despite pressure traditionally easing in summer.

Abingdon Surgery GP Prit Buttar, chairman of the British Medical Association’s local medical committee, said: “These results don’t surprise me at all.

“This is a very real crisis, and I fear that it will do irreparable damage to the service that is the backbone of healthcare in this country.”

An ageing population, demands for better access to GPs, moving care from hospitals, “bureaucratic policies” and funding cuts caused pressure, he said.

He added the golf-playing fat-cat image of GPs was a fallacy.

He said: “The reality is I work 4.5 days in the practice and clock up nearly 50 hours in that time.”

Moves to train more GPs “will not solve the problem”, he said, if there is not enough funding to find them jobs.

The average GP working for a clinical commisioning group earns between £54,863 and £82,789 dependent on experience, according to the NHS.

The survey also revealed some 96 per cent said their practice is “experiencing an ever-increasing and unsus- tainable pressure of work”

while 47 per cent said general practice is “becoming increasing-ly unsustainable for the future”. 
Responses show 36 per cent found it hard to recruit salaried GPs and 51 per cent found it hard to recruit senior GP partners. 
Nearly half, 45 per cent, were planning a career break within five years while 36 per cent planned to leave in that time.
Between 220 and 230 GPs answered each question. It comes after Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry called for Government and backbench MP-led inquiries “into the state of general practice” to see “what if any policy adjustments might be needed”. 
Alia Carter, spokeswoman for NHS England, said: “We acknow-ledge an increasing gap in recruitment and difficulties retaining GPs.” She said it is “committed” to working with NHS authorities and education groups and is looking into a study of the GP workforce. 
Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said: “It’s clear there are mounting pressures on GP practices, in Oxford and across the country. I have taken up with the Government concerns local GPs have raised with me about financial pressures, recruitment and retention of GPs, difficulty in attracting medical students to enter careers as GPs, and the sustainability of some practices.
“It’s a real worry that patients may not always be able to count on the same standard of GP services they have had in the past. This is all adding to the pressures on accident and emergency at the JR.”

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