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Saturday, 28 April, 2001, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
GPs gear up for day of action
Many GPs have increasingly heavy workloads
Some general practitioners are preparing to close their surgeries on Tuesday as part of protests against "heavy workloads and lack of resources".

GPs are angry at what they say is government inaction on easing workloads which they say are leading to shorter consultations and worse patient care.

The closure of some practices on Tuesday's National Doctor Day will mean the cancellation of routine appointments.

We are being portrayed as the baddies, the dark forces of conservatism

Dr Steven Nimmo
Devon GP
The move follows the BMA's recent decision to ballot GPs on whether they would be prepared to resign if the government does not take action to relieve pressure on primary care.

Medical defence experts have warned GPs to abide by their 24-hour duty of care during Tuesday's protests but have emphasised the action is legal for most GPs whose contracts often only specify a 26-hour week.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health authorities and trusts, has said that, while primary care was under "significant pressure", the government had already shown willing "through a series of initiatives" to improve conditions and recruitment.

Devon GP Dr Steven Nimmo is one who maintains the whole system is nearing breaking point.

Emergency cover

His three-GP surgery in Plymstock, Devon will close on Tuesday with all routine appointments cancelled.

Like other protesting surgeries, emergency cover will be provided.

Staff will not have the day off, instead spending their time replacing a filing system, work they would normally have done unpaid at the weekend.

Dr Steven Nimmo
Plymstock, Devon
35-40 patients daily
Hours 0810-1800
No coffee breaks
Occasional lunch breaks
Two hours paperwork
Varying number of house calls
Dr Nimmo told BBC News Online: "There is an awful lot of militancy, a level I've never seen before but none of us want to harm patients in any way.

"We are fighting for the survival of general practice ... [otherwise we will become] like NHS dentists - as rare as hen's teeth.

"The major problem we have is workload.

"Over the last 10 years the number of consultations has increased by 30% but the workforce and resources haven't increased by anything like that and we are doing shorter and shorter appointments."

Dr Nimmo said the ideal length would be between 10-15 minutes.

Increased expectation

"Seven-and-a-half minute appointments we do not feel are adequate."

Dr Jonathan Reggler, a member of the BMA's General Practice Committee, said the protest was about tackling "increasing admin, underfunding and understaffing".

He also attacked "government policies which increase public expectation in the NHS" while the service is unable to cope with its current workload.

Dr Jonathan Reggler
Marlow, Bucks
'On duty' from 0800
In surgery 0830-1210
Administration 1210-1245
Meeting 1245-1330
Diabetes clinic 1330-1520
Afternoon surgery 1520-1800
Several phone consultations
50-60 patients dealt with
His surgery in Marlow, Buckinghamshire will be closing on Tuesday, allowing staff to catch up with a backlog of paperwork.

He emphasised the protest is nothing to do with how much GPs are paid.

Dr Nimmo criticised some government initiatives, protesting: "One of the government's latest hot potatoes is asking us to see people within 48 hours

"We can only achieve that by making appointments shorter.

"The government might have some good ideas but they need to be adequately resourced - we are being portrayed as the baddies, the dark forces of conservatism."

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See also:

19 Apr 01 | Health
GPs' mass resignation threat
09 Feb 01 | Health
GP fury over pay award
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
Blair unveils NHS blueprint
19 Dec 00 | Health
'Thousands more GPs needed'
13 Mar 01 | Health
Cash boost to recruit new GPs
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