Could standing consultations help improve GPs’ health?

A new study being led by Loughborough University is hoping to find out if standing consultations could help improve the health of the nations’ GPs. There are more than 50,000 GPs in the UK. Many GPs sit for long periods during the working day and report low levels of physical activity, which can contribute to poor health outcomes.

To tackle this problem academics from Loughborough, in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), are investigating if standing consultations could help improve the activity levels of GPs and if their use would be accepted by patients and doctors.

The study will be carried out in three phases. For the first phase around 500 GPs throughout the UK will be asked to complete a survey about their views on using standing desks during patient consultations. For the second phase the research team will recruit GPs from across the East and West Midlands, with each asked to wear an ActivPAL device. The device will be used to measure the time the GPs spend sitting and standing while using their usual work desk for consultations and then again using a standing desk.

As well as capturing the GPs’ activity patterns during work hours, the ActivPAL device will also allow the research team to see if there are any changes to activity levels during none work time. During this phase of the study patients will also be asked by their GP if they are willing to talk to a researcher about their views of using a standing desk during their consultation with the GP.

For the final part of the study, the GPs will be invited to take part in interviews about their experiences of standing consultations.

Professor Amanda Daley from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences is leading the project. She said: “Historically, GPs and patients sit during consultations to facilitate good doctor-patient-rapport – we have all heard the familiar greeting from our GPs to ‘take a seat’. But we also know that GPs spend a long time sitting down during the working day – which can contribute to poor health outcomes – and evidence suggests that doctors often neglect their own health.

“Therefore, we need to find ways of getting GPs on their feet and moving more often. Standing consultations could help GPs to be more active, as well as highlighting to patients the importance of reducing and breaking up their sitting time.”