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Consultations far outstrip 10 minute target

The median length of GP consultations is 13.3 minutes and in some practices they last longer than 20 minutes, the Audit Commission research finds.

A study of more than 200 practices at nine PCTs revealed most consultations are much longer than the contract's target of 10 minutes.

The report concluded: 'The findings suggest 10- minute slots do not give

patients sufficient time with the doctor. In turn this may introduce delays for other patients and increase pressure in surgeries.'

Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said the evidence did not point to over-running surgeries as longer slots were given when other patients did not keep appointments.

The commission found GPs consulted with 30 per cent fewer patients than they expected, allowing for longer consultations.

Mr McKeon said: 'We felt [the long consultations] were a sign of improvement in primary care.

'The data suggests people who need it are getting more time. There has been a perception that it's only six minutes but the data does not say that.'

Practices needed to make realistic assessments of the number of patients that could be seen in a session, the report said, or adjust session length to reflect the actual time of consultations.

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