Estimates of general practitioner workload: a review. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • This paper reviews four studies sponsored by the Department of Health which have attempted to measure workload in general practice and compares these with data from the general household survey. Despite the considerable differences in the objectives and methods employed by the four studies, they were found to contain remarkably consistent measurements of general practitioner workload. In a 'normal working week' general practitioners spend 38 hours on general medical service duties (including 24 hours of patient contact and five hours of travel to home visits), they see 150 patients or their representatives in surgery, and make 26 home visits. In an 'annual average week', taking into account holidays and sick leave, general practitioners undertake 90% of this workload. The studies show consistently large variations in the workload of general practitioners measured in this way, but fail to identify the key determinants of such variations. The reasons underlying the variation in general practitioner workload will remain unclear until we can distinguish between the expected, measurable variation and the residual, unexplained variation which may be due to the personal preferences of general practitioners.


  • Thomas, K
  • Birch, Stephen
  • Milner, P
  • Nicholl, J
  • Westlake, L
  • Williams, B

publication date

  • December 1989