Authors: Fisher RF, Croxson CH, Ashdown HF, Hobbs FR
Br J Gen Pract. 2017 Feb;67(655):e148-e156
BACKGROUND: The existence of a crisis in primary care in the UK is in little doubt. GP morale and job satisfaction are low, and workload is increasing. In this challenging context, finding ways for GPs to manage that workload is imperative.
AIM: To explore what existing or potential strategies are described by GPs for dealing with their workload, and their views on the relative merits of each.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Semi-structured, qualitative interviews with GPs working within NHS England.
METHOD: All GPs working within NHS England were eligible. Of those who responded to advertisements, a maximum-variation sample was selected and interviewed until data saturation was reached. Data were analysed thematically.
RESULTS: Responses were received from 171 GPs, and, from these, 34 were included in the study. Four main themes emerged for workload management: patient-level, GP-level, practice-level, and systems-level strategies. A need for patients to take greater responsibility for self-management was clear, but many felt that GPs should not be responsible for this education. Increased delegation of tasks was felt to be key to managing workload, with innovative use of allied healthcare professionals and extended roles for non-clinical staff suggested. Telephone triage was a commonly used tool for managing workload, although not all participants found this helpful.
CONCLUSION: This in-depth qualitative study demonstrates an encouraging resilience among GPs. They are proactively trying to manage workload, often using innovative local strategies. GPs do not feel that they can do this alone, however, and called repeatedly for increased recruitment and more investment in primary care.