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Most GPs want longer than 10-min consultations

Only 8% of GPs say a 10-minute consultation is enough

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 09 April 2015

The vast majority of GPs feel the current 10-minute consultation time with patients is not long enough and undermines their ability to provide a good service, says a major survey published today.

A BMA survey of 15,560 GPs across the UK found that most doctors want to be able to spend more time with patients and are deeply worried that current workload pressures are affecting the quality of care being given.

The poll, which is described as the biggest ever BMA survey of GPs, was carried out in January and February of this year collecting a mixture of postal and online responses.

The BMA said it would release more answers from the survey over the next three weeks as part of its No More Games campaign, which calls on politicians of all parties to have an honest and open debate about the future of the NHS.

In this first set of published responses, only around one in ten GPs (8%) felt that the standard 10-minute consultation was adequate, while 67% felt there should be longer consultations for certain groups of patients (such as those with long-term conditions) and 25% felt all patients needed more time with their GP.

Around two-thirds (68%) of GPs believed that it was preferable to provide longer consultations of greater quality, even if it meant waiting longer to see a GP for a routine appointment.

Workload was a serious issue for many GPs, as the vast majority (93%) said that their heavy workload had negatively impacted on the quality of patient services and more than half (56%) working in out-of-hours services felt that at times, their workload was having a detrimental effect on the care being provided.

Although around half of GPs (51%) said they were willing to explore options to improve access by having practices offer some form of extended hours, almost all doctors (94%) did not feel practices should offer seven day opening in their own practices.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said: “GPs want to provide better services and spend more time with their patients, especially the increasing number of older people who often have a range of multiple health needs that require intensive, coordinated care.

“Unfortunately, this landmark poll highlights that GPs ability to care to patients is being seriously undermined by escalating workload, inadequate resourcing and unnecessary paperwork.”

Dr Nagpaul said politicians had of late, been making “hollow and unsubstantiated pledges” about dramatically increasing the number of GPs within five years, guaranteed appointments within 48 hours, and Sunday opening.

“We need politicians of all parties to stop playing games with the NHS and making glib promises to voters that ignore the reality that many GP practices are close to breaking point,” he said.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “As our population ages, GPs are managing diseases and conditions that even a decade ago would have been automatically referred to hospital consultants, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet patients’ needs within the confines of the traditional 10-minute consultation.

“In some cases, practices will find it difficult to offer longer consultations to some patients or introduce longer opening hours because there are simply not enough GPs to run clinics. We urgently need extra investment in general practice and many more GPs if this is to become widespread.”

An NHS England spokesperson explained that appointment times were not mandated by NHS England and were at the clinical discretion of GPs.

The spokesperson said: "GPs are under pressure so the NHS Five Year Forward View argued that we need a step change in primary care investment - which kicks off this year with £250 million of new funding for GP premises and a new GP Workforce 10 Point Plan."

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