GPs losing sleep over patient safety fears, says head of profession

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, says colleagues are left anxious by overwork and exhaustion

“Shattered” GPs are lying awake at night worrying they may have harmed their patients by making mistakes caused by tiredness and overwork, the leader of the profession has revealed.

Family doctors are losing sleep because they are so anxious that they have put patients’ safety at risk by missing a symptom or not keeping their medication up to date, said Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard.

The doctor, who is the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), told the Guardian: “GPs, like many caring professionals, never completely leave their jobs behind when they go home; it’s a 24/7 responsibility.

“However, the situation for GPs has deteriorated and I know of GPs who have told me that they have sleepless nights worrying about their patients, or that they’ve missed something because they’ve been constantly up against it all day long, working in ways that don’t feel safe.

“The ones I’ve spoken to are women in their 30s and 40s, but I’ve heard anecdotal stories about other colleagues as well,” she said. GPs have told her how they are still awake at 3am or 4am wondering if, as a result of being under constant pressure, they have made errors.

Stokes-Lampard said GPs were struggling to keep up with rising demand for consultations, giving patients as much time as they needed in appointments and a relentless flow of correspondence from hospitals about the latest developments about patient.

Full story in The Guardian, 9 October 2017