One in five GPs not taking on new patients
One-fifth of GPs have stopped accepting new patients, according to a survey on the time commitment of doctors in Belgium. Three-quarters of those surveyed said their workload was either high or very high.
The study was commissioned by the FPS Health at the request of health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit). It should provide a better insight into the number of hours a full-time GP works each week and how the time is spent. Nearly 1,150 doctors completed the survey between September and November last year.
According to the report, doctors spend most of their time (73 per cent) on direct interactions with patients. The remaining time is spent on medical and non-medical tasks, including on-call duty or file and diary management. Older and male doctors in Flanders tend to have shorter interactions with patients, the survey shows. GPs in Brussels tend to spend more time communicating with patients and their families.
Change of thinking required
Although more than half of those surveyed said they would like to work 38 to 40 hours a week, only 17 per cent claim to have that “ideal” working week. More than half say they work 50 to 64 hours a week, with 17 per cent saying they work more than 64 hours. According to the report, most doctors believe their workload is related to the number of GPs in the area.
Finally, 25 per cent of doctors say they are taking on patients without conditions, while 58 per cent only do so under "specific conditions". Almost one-fifth (17 per cent) have already implemented a patient freeze. This was most common in Hainaut (27 per cent) and East Flanders (22 per cent), while the lowest figure was in West Flanders (8 per cent).
Vandenbroucke pointed out the need to “train enough doctors, taking into account the needs of the population and the needs of the doctors themselves. At the same time, we need to rethink the practices and role of the GP. This will lead to better quality and accessibility of care and also more job satisfaction for doctors.”
© BELGA PHOTO ANTHONY DEHEZ