You are currently viewing The “part-time” fallacy – Pulse Today

The “part-time” fallacy – Pulse Today

You may have seen the Sunday Times front page this week (in which – shameless boasting – yours truly was quoted).

Most of the article is pretty balanced, pointing out that a full-time job in GP just isn’t feasible and cutting hours is pretty much the only course of action.

(When I spoke to the reporter, I stuck to my own advice to point out the only salient facts – that the number of full-time equivalent GPs is falling as demand rises, and everything else is not that noise, and I think a lot of the room reflected that).

However, the opening line – obviously the most important – was problematic: “Almost a fifth of GPs only work an average of 26 hours a week while half of all patients struggle to reach their GP family, according to the data.”

I don’t think there is another profession whose overall working hours are based on the 20% of people who put in the fewest hours.

However, I also think it pretty much negates the only argument that GPs themselves are to blame for waiting lists – that access suffers because GPs choose to work less than full time.

There is no doubt that GPs are reducing their hours, and mainly for good reasons. But – despite the increase in the number of GPs working “part-time hours” – the average GP working week remains at around 40 hours, five hours longer than a traditional 9-5. And the 20% who work the fewest hours in the NHS still work just nine hours less than a normal full-time job.

Of course, even those working a pitiful 26 hours (ahem) in surgery often have other roles, many of which are government mandated (NCP officials, commissioning roles, LMC work, etc.), or take care of families.

Going back to the days when GPs worked longer hours also ignores the intensity of today’s work, where any mistake in the rotation of ten-minute appointments can harm the patient (and the end of a career too ). In the good old days, a GP could work longer, but with lower demand and less risk, there wasn’t the same level of burnout.

Which is to say that part-time general practitioners are not really part-time. And even calling them “less than full-time” doesn’t fully reflect the actual hours they put in and the work they do.

I think a lot of professions – including my own – would struggle with the hours worked by ‘part-time’ GPs.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor-in-chief of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk

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