Two week average waiting time for GP appointments

Author: Adrian O'Dowd
Two week average waiting time for GP appointments

The average waiting time for a routine non-urgent GP appointment has now reached longer than two weeks for the first time, according to the annual survey into this issue carried out by Pulse magazine.

The survey with 901 responses from GPs across the UK found that the average waiting time is now almost 15 days for these appointments, which is the first time it has ever exceeded a fortnight.

Doctors’ leaders said the findings proved the scale of pressure being felt in general practices which were struggling to meet growing patient demand.

The problem is worse in some areas, as more than 22% of GPs said that the wait for a routine appointment was more than three weeks and 6% said it was longer than four weeks.

The average wait time has risen from 12.8 days in the 2016 and 2017 surveys to 13.9 days in 2018 and 14.8 days this year.

Pulse's latest survey found that more than 30% of GPs said the average waiting time was between two and three weeks, with only 20% saying the average was less than a week.

One GP who recorded a four to five week waiting list said: “Our list size continues to grow because there are so many housing developments. We are poorly remunerated under the GMS contract for the hard work that we do. Patient demand continues to soar with higher expectations despite dreadful government funding.”

Responding to the survey, British Medical Association GP committee chair, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: “Waiting times are a key indicator of the pressure on services and these latest figures highlight the reality of the capacity issues that many GP practices across the country are facing.

“GPs’ number one priority is treating their patients and they work incredibly hard to do so, often outside of their contracted hours in practices that are understaffed.

“What is clear however, is that despite the best efforts of practices, patient demand is continuing to grow and with it the rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to – and the fact that this is becoming increasingly difficult is frustrating for GPs and our teams, as we know it is for them.

“When patients need to see a GP or member of the practice team urgently, we are working incredibly hard to ensure they can get access – and this is reflected in the most recent NHS figures.

“But people are waiting too long for routine appointments, and the concern is that non-serious conditions might deteriorate, or patient’s give up trying to see the GP and we miss signs of serious illness early when it could be dealt with simply and more cost-effectively in primary care.

“GPs and our teams are making more consultations than ever before but as our population grows and more people present with multiple conditions, we desperately need more GPs and more time to give our patients the care they deserve.”