Over-stretched GPs have less than half the time they need to assess their patients properly

Article date: 3 June 2010

  • 57% of GPs say that they have less time to see patients than five years ago
  • 43% say a lack of time with patients affects their ability to diagnose
  • 50% say a lack of time with patients has affected their ability to do their job

Doctors are finding their ability to assess patients is being compromised because they aren’t able to spend enough time with them. This is according to new research released today by Aviva UK Health.

Over half of the GPs questioned (57%) in the Aviva study say that they have less time to see their patients than they did five years ago. Worryingly, only 7% of GPs feel a lack of time with a patient does not affect their ability to do their job. 1

While nine in 10 GPs (89%) feel that ideally they’d take up to 20 minutes to see each patient, current practice is to schedule doctors’ appointments for 10 minutes each, falling way short of the mark. It’s not just GPs who are unhappy with the situation. Additional research conducted by Aviva UK Health last month showed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers thought that NHS appointments were always rushed.  

This potentially dangerous situation is already making service standards suffer. Half of GPs (50%) say a lack of time with their patients definitely affects their ability to do their job and a further 43% say it makes it harder for them to come to an accurate diagnosis.  

The research also reveals that the internet is playing an increasingly important role for doctors, with 96% of the GPs questioned for the study claiming to access web search engines on a daily basis for their work and 85% admitting to using these online resources as an aid to diagnosis. 

While only 5% say they do this because they are pressed for time, this reflects a continuing trend for the greater use of technology during a consultation. It is already known that patients and doctors can find the computer a distraction and with time pressures the situation can be worsened.

The GP survey is an integral part of Aviva’s annual “Health of the Workplace” report. Now in its fourth year, Health of the Workplace canvases GP, employer and employee opinions on topical issues in order to uncover and raise awareness of important issues relating to health. This information is then used to suggest solutions which will help both employers and employees.

Dr Hugh Laing, practising GP and chief medical officer at Aviva UK Health comments: “At Aviva we are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our customers and we recognise the important role that GPs have in delivering this. To enable us to do this it is vital that we understand the concerns which affect both consumers and the healthcare industry in general.

”Our research shows that GPs are over stretched and this can affect the quality of support they are able to offer their patients. Web based technology has revolutionised the way we all work and fast access to high quality information can be an invaluable support for patients and professionals, but ultimately there is no substitute for a thorough assessment by a qualified GP, and from our research this is clearly not happening in many cases.  As such we urge the new coalition Government to support and work with GPs to ensure delivery of the right care for patients. 

“While the coalition Government has outlined its health policies focusing on improving access to GPs and offering a wider choice of doctors, both patients and GPs are clearly demanding a better GP experience, and access times and choice are just one piece of this jigsaw.

“Aviva UK Health believes that people should have the peace of mind that they can talk to a GP for as long as they need at any time of the day or night. As such, we give our private health insurance customers access to a confidential GP helpline offering advice and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition to this, we offer a range of occupational health services and benefits to help keep our customers in good health.”


For further information contact:
Amber Chable, PR and Communications Manager, Aviva UK Health
Telephone: 023 80359 383        
E-mail: amber.chable@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:

1 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from PoLLAB Research. Total sample size was 200 employers, 200 GPs and 1,000 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken in April 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted.

2 Redshift research surveyed 2696 18-65 year olds on behalf of Aviva on 6-8 April 2010.

About Health of the Workplace
Now in its fourth year, Health of the Workplace is an annual study that canvases GP, employer and employee opinion on topical issues. The report’s goal is to uncover important issues relating to health in the workplace, understand current debates and suggest solutions which will help both employers and employees.

This year, our research with GPs explores how their role has changed over recent years. It highlights the challenges they face and explores the increasing role web-based information plays in both their own and their patients’ lives. The often shocking findings provide an insightful view into the challenges faced by GPs and highlight the importance of the Government putting an increased focus on primary care.

Health and Wellbeing from Aviva
Established in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union, Norwich Union Healthcare was re-branded to Aviva Health UK Limited in 2009. Part of the Aviva group, the world’s fifth largest insurance group, we provide a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,850,000 lives. We are one of the largest providers of income protection, group life and private medical insurance in the UK.

Aviva Health also provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Aviva Health UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva’s internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

About Aviva

  • Aviva is the world’s fifth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific
  • Aviva's main business activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion at 31 December 2009 
  • We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe  
  • Aviva’s life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 10.3%** and a leading position in its key markets of savings, protection and annuities.
  • The Aviva media centre at www.aviva.com/media includes images, company and product information and a news release archive
  • For broadcast-standard video, please visit www.aviva.com/media/video/.  
  • Follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc  

* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2008
** Source: ABI data released March 2010

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