“Planning on making a doctors appointment for after work? You may want to think again. Some medics have suggested it’s better for patients to opt for a morning GP appointment to avoid possible afternoon “decision fatigue” from their doctor.
With some GPs seeing 40 to 60 patients every day (despite international guidelines suggesting a safe limit of around half this number) it may come as little surprise that the British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for limits to be set on the number of patients doctors see. GPs say the quality of decision-making may worsen as the day goes on and that tiredness has the potential to impair judgement. There are plans for a vote on industrial action, if numbers are not capped.
Rachel Ali, a GP from Devon, told peers at a London-based conference: “Decision fatigue is the concept that as we make more decisions during the day, they become less and less good quality… I know that I would much rather be one of my first five patient contacts of the day than my last five.” The family doctor added that she didn’t know where the cut off should be. Although a recent poll of more than 350 GPs discovered two thirds believe appointments should be capped at 30 or less.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, told The Telegraph: “This is not just about the number of appointments being seen every day, but about the intensity of that workload, and the number of patients with complex and multiple conditions…. When GPs are trying to listen and care while juggling huge numbers of patients they want to practice safely and not to make a mistake but you are trying to do the impossible.” “
If NHS GPs support this call from the BMA I think they are going to walk themselves into a corner where the politicians will once again be able to get their newspaper buddies to vilify them (much like we saw with the unfortunate Junior Doctors).
It’s time for us to stop blaming Patients, to realise that the product NHS GPs make is not appointments and for us all to make a commitment to move beyond the office visit only model. Thankfully there are some great examples of NHS GPs who have already done that eg. Dr Rupert Bankart.
The simple answer to “are you better off seeing your GP in the morning?”: No. In 2016 you’re better off supporting a GP who has moved beyond trying to manage everything with an office visit.