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Independents' Day

Conservatives asked to consider an annual limit on GP appointments per patient

The Conservative Party has been consulting on the idea of limiting the annual number of appointments a patient can make with their GPs.

The Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), which helps formulate party policy, asked members on its website whether they agree or disagree to a number of controversial statements regarding GP care including the annual limit on GP appointments and penalties for DNAs, as well as questions regarding GPs providing appointments out of hours.

Describing patient demand, the document said: ‘The majority of most individuals’ interactions with the health service come through visits to their local GP, who also acts as a gateway to the rest of the health service. This relationship is essential for a functioning NHS.’

‘However, some GP surgeries are stretched due to an expanding older population. The estimated number of consultations for a typical practice in England rose from 21,100 in 1995 to 34,200 in 2008. In 2008, the highest overall consultation rate occurred in the age band 85 to 89 years for both sexes, at approximately 13 consultations per year. This is in comparison to 5.5 consultations per year for the average patient.  GP surgeries must find ways to expand or change the way their service is delivered in order to meet demand.’

Click here to read the Conservative Policy Forum discussion brief

But GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul branded the suggestion of an annual appointment limit as ‘absurd’.

He said: ‘We welcome the recognition that attendances in GP surgeries have rocketed to a point where surgeries are having real difficulty with capacity. But to ration access to GPs, I find that an absurd suggestion. It would impact on the most vulnerable patients and create a hugely inequitable system. The Government has to invest in general practice and GP premises to help practices cope with demand.’

The CPF, a national group that gives Conservative Party members the opportunity to ‘discuss major policy challenges facing the country’, has asked for members to submit their opinions by the end of June.


Readers' comments (10)

  • I agree it is completely unacceptable to ration GP appts per year but make it totally unacceptableto miss a GP appt - I have signed 20 repeat DNA letters today. Introduce a sanction for any missed appt? Place responsibility for health where it belongs which in first instance is with the patient, they need to realise no matter what this or other Govt say the NHS in present form is not safe in politicans hands. Charge for all scripts - not a lot but if people had to pay £1 for a script for paracetamol maybe they would trot along and buy them for 16pence in local chemist.

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  • Agree with anon @5.44.

    Ridiculous to think that frail elderly or patients with MH needs, as just two examples, will be best managed by limiting their contact with primary care.

    More encouragement of self care, reducing the 'worried well' misusing services and imposing small financial sanctions for DNAs would be far more effective.

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  • Another genius idea. If patients exceed their maximum number of appointments per year, they can go to AE! ;)

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  • I am not sure who feeds the Government with this idiotic notion of limiting patients visits to GP.
    Patients need to be penalised for DNAs who have not informed GP of cancellation of their appointments.
    Hospitals need to levy similar fee and a higher fee if patient DNA for any surgical procedure.
    I am sure a small charge for say paracetamol prescription would not be out if place.

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  • So much for keeping people out of hospital and away from A&E then!

    David Cameron very serious about free at the point of delivery pledge then!

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  • Please join the petition against this silly idea:

    They just don't get it, do they? Perhaps they don't want to. Bring back the workhouse, starving kids, slave labour!

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  • I agree the idea is stupid and non practical. But surely the underlying problem this is trying to address is correct - inappropriate use and dependance on free health care. Mind you, the other policies this government is putting through is feeding it (personal health budget anyone?), they obviously are clueless

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  • Question 4 in the document reads "How can we encourage more General Practices to offer advanced treatments usually administered by
    hospitals (for example, scans or hernia operations)?"
    If this is the level of knowledge and understanding prevalent among the politicians currently shaping the future of the NHS we should not be surprised they suggest limiting the number of appointments/patient/year. It is certainly not more ridiculous than suggesting GPs should perform hernia operations.

    PS If anybody ever gets in touch with whomever wrote that document, could they please let them know that a scan is not a treatment?

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  • Possible fee of £1 fee to deter the over anxious patient and a £5 DNA charge rather than a cap.

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  • Do we really think that the politicians believe this is the way forward? Of course not but it will provoke debate!
    The truth of the matter is that there is great variation among what is provided from GPs when it comes to Patient Number Ratios to available GPs. Within my nearby area numbers vary between surgeries from under 200 Patients per GP sessions to over 250 per session. It all depends on the service you are providing and how you manage patients and their expectations. Not to mention local needs. One size does not fit all but there needs to be some baseline standard. All these things affect income but you will not get much sympathy from the public if you are earning £100k plus when Super Ann etc is taken into account. DNAs are a big problem as is the entitlement culture for things such as over the counter meds! It is fine everyone complaining at some of the suggested solutions but this will take time to solve. Patients have been educated to get what they want in the last 15 years. In actual fact they expect champagne when they only want to pay for lemonade!

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