GPs spend just 12 minutes with average patient
NEARLY half of GPs are now so overstretched that the average patient visit lasts only 12 minutes.
And nine out of ten fear the introduction of free GP care for all under children under six will further damage the quality of service they can provide to all their patients.
Seven in 10 doctors are also bracing themselves for the extension of free GP care to all over-70s, warning it will put further demands on their time.
The worrying findings have emerged in a survey commissioned by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) against a background of reports of worsening workload and increasing financial stress due to fee cuts in the medical card scheme.
NAGP President Dr Conor McGee said: "The figures reveal the pressures on GPs. The savage cuts that have been imposed on the sector have meant that many practices have lost support staff like practice nurses.
"As a result, GPs are seeing more and more patients themselves. The whole situation is having a serious effect on patient consultation times and on GPs personally."
The survey found 84pc of GPs believe their mental health has suffered and half are having to put in 50 hours per week, with one in five working in excess of 60 hours in order to cope with patient demands.
An average clinic session can leave a GP caring for 15 patients - but many are seeing more.
A huge majority would be in favour of the introduction of a system of care which would be cheapest for patients with the greatest medical needs, rather than basing it on age.
Dr McGee, who will address the GP organisation's annual conference in Limerick today, said the knock-on effect is the struggle doctors face to maintain a same-day service.
"Generally a GP will have cared for a patient over many decades and that creates a relationship that isn't seen anywhere else in medicine.
"Trying to maintain the gold-standard care you have always provided to that patient within the current environment of scant resources naturally takes its toll. The situation is detrimental to our patients and those who are charged with caring for them.
"Unless additional resources are put in place immediately, the effects will be catastrophic.
"Over 90pc of all day-to-day patient interactions take place in general practice but the vast majority of funding continues to be ploughed into the hospital system.
"Investment will not only safeguard the high-quality service that the sector is renowned for, but will also have significant cost-saving effects for the health sector in general."
The results follow 660 responses to Gorilla Survey. Talks are currently underway with the Irish Medical Organisation on fees for plans for free GP care for under-sixes and the over-70s.