More than half of doctors surveyed in the UK said they had to work from home for the sake of personal safety and well-being, according to the latest research by a UK health charity.
The National Health Service (NHS) and Care Quality Commission (CQC) both confirmed the findings, with one saying the practice had risen by around 1,000 in recent years.
The survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that of doctors who did work from a mobile phone, 80 per cent of them were “in their home office” in 2015.
But that was down from 80 per 100 in 2013.
And the number of “in-office” hours fell from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.
It follows a surge in remote work by NHS doctors, with more than 70 per cent reporting that they had worked from home at some point in the past year.
The BMA said the rise in remote working was largely driven by technology and the “challenging nature” of some health services, such as GP surgeries.
Dr Peter Clarke, chairman of the BMA’s medical commissioning group, said the practice was also a symptom of the NHS’s changing health care system.
“The NHS has a very different, and much bigger, workforce to what it was in the 1990s,” he said.
“It’s more mobile, it’s more connected and the health services have to work more closely together.
What we have seen is a greater use of technologies such as technology management, where the patient care team is in the home and the patient is getting access to the care.”
That’s why it’s such a challenge for doctors, particularly as we’ve seen more and more people in rural and remote areas.
“The number of people working from home has been rising steadily, but it’s also been on the decline.”
But the report also found that the majority of people surveyed had confidence in the NHS.
They were more likely to say they trusted the NHS in general and its ability to provide care.
More than a quarter said they were “very confident” the NHS would keep running properly.
And 41 per cent said they would be “very concerned” if the NHS did not keep up with changing needs and changes in technology.
The survey also found the majority were worried about the impact of the ageing population on the NHS and health care.
About half of those surveyed said they thought the NHS was on the wrong track, with half saying it was a “very worrying” trend.
Health and Social Care Minister Nick Gibb said the survey showed doctors were struggling to meet the demands of the changing work culture.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the front end, but we need to recognise the challenges that we face and what we can do to help doctors cope with the changing workforce,” he told the BBC.
“And we need some leadership on this issue, which is why I’ve asked for the review of how we are managing the ageing workforce.”
The findings are contained in a report commissioned by the BAA and released today by the Royal College of Nursing.
The report, called “In-office Work: How We Should Work From Home and What We Can Do to Keep it Safe”, found that 80 per 10,000 doctors are currently working from a smartphone, with about a third of those from mobile phones.
It said the majority had been using their phones to do some work, such a reading from a tablet or answering a phone call, or to help manage other tasks, such the “medical consultation”.
But it said only 15 per cent worked from their mobile phones for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
And most people who did not work from the home said they did not feel comfortable with it.
One in four doctors did not use their phones for any purpose other than to “meet their work needs”.
Some said they “often did not know what they were doing was inappropriate”, while another 23 per cent were “not comfortable with the idea of working from their desk”.
The BAA said the number who worked from a personal mobile phone rose from 1 per cent in 2013 to 6 per cent by 2020.
However, it said the overall percentage of doctors from a laptop, tablet or smartphone fell from 14 per cent over the same period to 5.4 per cent between 2013 and 2015.
The charity added that many of the changes to the health service had been driven by automation.
“Technology has changed everything from GP appointments to the way we manage appointments,” Dr Clarke said.
“That’s where a lot is being done.
We need to think about the benefits of using technology more in the future.”
More: The BMA is urging NHS trusts to create a “living platform” for all doctors to work at the same time, with an “automated” system to help them do so.