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Patients should choose their own appointment duration, say researchers

Allowing patients to choose the length of their consultation when booking a GP appointment could improve patient’s control over their health, say researchers.

The small study at Cairn Medical Practice in Inverness, where 174 patients were allowed choose between five, 10, 15 or 20-minute consultations. 

Satisfaction levels were not measured in the study, but GPs kept a diary and recorded their thoughts during the study period. They found that patients seemed to be more empowered and better able to express themselves.

But some doctors said the experience was stressful because they worried that too many five-minute appointments would overrun.

One GP said: ‘I felt less rushed and more relaxed. I enjoyed the surgery more. I felt on a more equal footing with the patient because they had some choice in their appointment time.’

Dr Rod Sampson, an Inverness GP who led the research team, said: ‘Choice is an important issue for patients and they can usually assess accurately how long a consultation they need.

‘The results of this study suggest that there may be a number of benefits to be gained by giving patients greater responsibility for choosing the length of their appointments.’

The research will be published in next month’s edition of the British Journal of General Practice.

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