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GP appointments should be at least 15 minutes long by 2030, report argues

Published on 21/05/19 at 10:41am

GP consultations should be five minutes longer, with 10 minute doctors’ appointments being a ‘thing of the past,’ according to a report from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).

Britain has some of the shortest GP appointments in the world, with the average visit to the doctors lasting just 9.2 minutes. This is half the length of appointments in Sweden and the United States.

However, longer consultations are needed to ensure proper patient care, according to the RCGP. With an ageing population and a rise in long-term conditions, 10 minute appointments are insufficient to meet current needs.

As such, GP appointments will have to be at least 15 minutes long by 2030, in order to keep up with current demand.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, commented: “It is abundantly clear that the standard ten-minute appointment is unfit for purpose. It’s increasingly rare for a patient to present with a just single health condition, and we cannot deal with this adequately in ten minutes.”

“GPs want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients, considering all the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health. But this depends on us having more time to spend with patients and the resources and people to allow us to do this,” she added.

While a growing number of people live with at least two conditions, caring for patients has become increasingly challenging and increasingly complex. The problems are confounded as demand for appointments has grown while the number of GPs falls, with more doctors in their 50s and 60s taking early retirement to escape the stresses of their jobs.

“NHS bodies across the UK do not stipulate how long GP appointments should be, but GP workload is soaring, GP numbers are falling and patients are already waiting too long to secure an appointment as a result,” Stokes-Lampard said. “Without more resources and an expanded workforce, longer consultations would simply mean increased waiting times, undermining patients’ ability to access the care that they need.”

Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association GP committee, commented: “As more and more patients live with a number of complex conditions, GPs are increasingly concerned that short consultations with their patients are rarely conducive with providing the high level of care that people expect and deserve. This unreasonable time pressure also has a major impact on the mental wellbeing of doctors.”

“No GP wants to rush their time with patients, squeezing it into a ten-minute window when it needs far longer, but they are forced to do so by the sheer volume of workload they are faced with.”

Louis Goss

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