How long can we keep putting pressure on family doctors? GP workload is becoming unsustainable and we need to find practical ways to reduce the burden.The number of family doctors struggling with their GP workload has doubled in 2021, according to latest figures from the General Medical Council. More than half of all GPs say their workload is a major challenge and 32% are at high risk of burnout.
On average, GPs said 76% of their working hours were characterised by ‘high intensity’, which is more than any other area of medicine. The total number of consultations carried out every month by GPs is over two million more than it was in 2019. And the urgent roll-out of Covid vaccines and booster jabs is only adding to that GP workload. In England, 75% of vaccines are administered by primary care providers.
In these conditions, it’s hardly surprising that a rising number of doctors are leaving these roles and practices are closing.
GP workloads put strain on entire team
The pressure is not only felt by doctors themselves but the teams that surround them. All GP practice staff are facing an increasing workload, from booking appointments to maintaining Covid safety standards in surgeries and managing the supply of vaccines.
Managing the daily running of a GP practice is not just a medical pursuit but a logistical, operational and administrative burden too.
This is an area that’s an increasing target for innovation. While the pandemic has driven major investment in patient-facing technologies such as virtual appointments, online booking and patient information portals, the inner workings of healthcare provision have not had the same attention.
But that is beginning to change as healthcare providers seek ways to modernise their operations, smooth out inefficiencies, take mundane tasks away from busy staff, improve data-driven decision-making, standardise compliance activity and phase out paperwork.
One of the UK’s largest GP groups has introduced intelligent operations to establish consistent standards and save staff time across its nine separate practices.
Here are three practical areas where Checkit’s intelligent operations platform has had a positive impact on the overall GP workload at Priory Medical Group.
Smart procedures help manage GP workload
One of Priory Medical Group’s main aims was to bring greater consistency to the tasks that contribute to GP workload and strengthen best practice across all sites.
At the same time, managers wanted to provide more consistent guidance to employees. For example, each surgery had its own documents for daily checks of essential equipment including defibrillators and oxygen supplies, with differing degrees of clarity.
Priory Medical Group’s Quality Assurance Lead, Joanne Robinson said: “With so many different ways of doing things, it became confusing for any members of staff moving between sites. Our aim was to bring all of this together and make it easy for staff, regardless of where they are working, by moving towards more standardised practices.”
Instead of depending on assorted paperwork, key workflows were created digitally on the Checkit platform and distributed to staff members via digital assistants. In the form of a mobile device, the digital assistant prompts, guides and logs scheduled and unscheduled work that needs to be done, with QR code scanning to confirm the correct location of the task.
Work that was absorbed into the Checkit platform included:
- Defribrillator check
- Fire alarm test
- Oxygen check
- Weekly room checks
- Allocation of GP tasks
- Retrieval clinical waste
- Health and safety checklist
- Home visits schedule and allocation
- Patients screened for Covid-19
- Prescriptions for printing
- Stock levels and waste bins
- End-of-day checks
This updated way of working was quickly embraced by staff after an initial pilot programme that focused on engagement and training.
Martin Eades, Managing Partner at Priory Medical Group, added: “Checkit’s platform gives us the tools to guide and monitor best practice, not just at one surgery but consistently across all of our sites.”
Automated monitoring reduces GP workload faced by frontline staff
For surgeries with fridges containing temperature-sensitive medicines such as vaccines, it’s imperative to keep a regular check on storage conditions.
This traditionally required staff to manually check fridges with a thermometer at regular intervals and note the results on paper, which is not only time-consuming and disruptive but vulnerable to error and missed checks during busy periods.
Priory Medical Group’s previous reliance on manual checks left the group vulnerable to uncertainty, particularly during evenings and weekends.
Wireless monitoring of critical assets was another important facet of Checkit’s overall solution. Checkit's automated monitoring enables fridge temperatures at every site to be tracked 24/7 via a network of 20 individual sensors. This ensures critical inventory is stored appropriately to strengthen compliance, guarantee safety and reduce the risk of waste.
Data insight enable continuous improvement
The data streaming into the intelligent operations platform – from both digital assistants and sensors – provides Priory Medical Group with new levels of management insight and a digital audit trail that strengthens safety and compliance.
Accountability has improved and reporting is more consistent. The group is also more efficient in preparing for inspections by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Managers perform regular mock inspections to pinpoint areas of concern. These inspections cover key areas including checks that stock and curtains are within expiry dates, premises are safe and rooms are in good condition. Checkit’s system provides proof points on all checks.
One of the advantages of digitisation is that process failures or equipment faults can be quickly recognised and rectified.
This proactive approach can help keep GP workloads under greater control by making operational procedures more efficient.