Time pressures mean GPs miss key health issues

WORKLOAD pressure on GPs is making them ignore key health issues, according to research by Aviva.

The provider’s latest Health of the Workplace study shows nine out of 10 GPs would like to spend more time per appointment, and 41 per cent avoid raising sensitive issues such as obesity. GPs avoided raising serious conditions such as smoking, overlooked by 13 per cent, alcohol misuse (19 per cent) and obesity (47 per cent).

Aviva says British reserve means 47 per cent of GPs would not raise the issue of child obesity. The situation is compounded by the fact patients also frequently fail to raise issues with their GP, with 43 per cent never discussing any general health concerns with their doctor, including fear of obesity.

Many patients also show an alarming lack of knowledge of some basic health indicators, the report says. Although over half of those surveyed knew their weight, the vast majority of the remaining sample, 41 per cent, only had a vague idea. Two thirds of those questioned were unaware of their blood pressure level and 22 per cent had no idea of what constitutes a healthy BMI.

Dr. Doug Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, says: “Although it can be difficult to raise personal issues about weight or lifestyle, allowing them to remain unchecked can be costly in the long run. GPs are tremendously busy and under pressure to deal with high numbers of patients and a growing administrative workload. It’s therefore important that individuals continue to be encouraged to take more control of their own health.

“Opening channels of communication between doctors and patients and fostering greater healthcare awareness among the population as a whole requires a major shift in attitude. Whilst this can be delivered through primary care facilities such as GP surgeries, there is real opportunity for other stakeholders to support this wellness agenda.”