GPs urge the nation to take more responsibility for their health

Article date: 25 July 2011

  • One in four (23%) GPs only spend a quarter of their time dealing with medical issues that actually require their expertise
  • 46% of GPs say better health education would greatly improve the nation’s experience of the health service

Research from Aviva1 examining GPs’ views on medical issues, patient care and reform has revealed concern about the lack of responsibility patients take for their own health.

Aviva’s bi-annual Health of the Nation study reveals that GPs spend nearly three quarters of their time (74%) with patients.2 However, one in four (23%) say that only around a quarter of this time is spent dealing with medical issues that require a GP’s attention.

Most GPs (93%) say that they spend up to a quarter of their time dealing with medical issues that a practice nurse could address. 88% of GPs say that a similar amount of time is spent dealing with minor medical issues that don’t even need to be seen by a GP or nurse.

Moreover, Aviva’s research reveals that nearly half of GPs (48%) feel that a significant amount of their time is spent dealing with patients who do not look after themselves. Over three quarters (78%) are concerned that their patients have unrealistic expectations in relation to their own health and the support available from their GP.

Even when the GP is the most appropriate person to help, the research reveals that they still have difficulties making referrals in many cases. Worryingly, 42% of GPs haven’t been able to refer patients for some treatments because they aren’t available to them in their area. 

This is particularly true in the case of complex medical conditions such as work related stress (53%), chronic fatigue syndrome (60%), eating disorders (53%) and food allergies (56%).

What do GPs think can be done to help?
The top things that GPs feel would improve patients’ experience of the health service are:

  • Longer appointments (76%)
  • Faster diagnostic services (63%)
  • Shorter waiting lists (48%)
  • Improvements in the quality of clinical care (45%)

Nearly half (46%) of GPs believe that better health education (for individuals and employers) will improve the individual’s experience of the health service. In fact the research reveals that many people are already turning to self education about their condition. If used in the right way, 76% of GPs think that this will help improve the quality of decisions made about their healthcare and benefit patient health.

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development, Aviva UK Health says: “Our research clearly demonstrates that GPs want to do the best for their patients by giving them the time and treatment they require. Yet this is an increasing challenge in the current environment.

“By working together, GPs, individuals, employers and private healthcare providers such as Aviva can do a great deal to help improve the service we all receive from the NHS.

“While it’s important to stress that people should always seek help if they are concerned about their health, they need to be educated to make informed choices about who they turn to for support.

“Similarly, promoting a better understanding of healthy living and encouraging individuals to manage their own health could go a long way to address some of the challenges identified in our Health of the Nation report. This would help free up GPs’ time to allow them to offer the best quality of care to the individuals that really need their help.”

Aviva’s Health of the Nation research reveals that nearly eight in 10 (79%) GPs believe that they don’t have enough time to spend with their patients. Worryingly over half (56%) feel that taking part in commissioning of NHS services will shift their focus from patient care onto administration. Similarly, 48% feel that they will find it harder to devote time to their patients.

The bi-annual study canvassed the views of over 200 GPs on issues relating to their working practice and patient care. The results are thought provoking and provide an incisive commentary on the position of healthcare at this moment in time, as well as an insight into GPs thoughts about the future. The full 2011 Health of the Nation is available to download from


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Melissa Loughran
Aviva Press Office
01904 452791 / 07800 691947

1 Aviva commissioned extensive research among a panel of 208 GPs across the UK. The sample is broadly representative of the UK across age, gender, region, practice size (by patient numbers and number of GP’s working in practice) and how long the GP has been practicing. GPs were interviewed between May 9 and 11 2011. The research was conducted online on behalf of Aviva by independent research company Pollab. 

2 GPs taking part in the research worked on average 36 hours 7 minutes a week. The average amount of time spent with patients is 26 hours 34 minutes a week.  

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market. Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top ten most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009.
** at 31 December 2010.

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