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Average GP appointment waiting times to hit two weeks by next year

Exclusive The average waiting time for a GP appointment in a year’s time will hit two weeks as they continue to increase, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 700 GPs across the UK reveals that one in four practices currently have a two-week wait for an appointment - an increase on the one in five who said this when the same survey was done last year.

It also reveals that 6% of GPs say patients are currently having to wait longer than three weeks, while almost 20% say the wait will be longer than three weeks in a year’s time.

The results come at a time when political parties are pushing forward policies on increasing access, with the Labour Party proposing every patient can see a GP within 48 hours, while the Conservatives want practices to offer a seven-day service, and same-day access for over 75s.

But Pulse’s survey reveals that practices are struggling to provide appointments within two weeks as it is because of increased workload, problems with recruitment and decreased funding.

GP leaders said there was ‘frustration’ that parties were looking to increase access without trying to support core general practice.

The survey found that more than 60% of GPs said patients had to currently wait longer than a week for an appointment, compared with 54% last year.

A mid-point analysis of the figures revealed that the average wait for an appointment in a year’s time will be exactly two weeks, compared with ten days currently. Last year, the average waiting time was nine days.

Dr Zishan Mehdi Syed, a GP partner in Maidstone, Kent, predicted that waiting times at his practice will be more than five weeks in 12 months’ time.

He said: ‘Unfortunately a great number of people have no idea whatsoever of how difficult my job is.’

‘Many people, for example, demand home visits during times when surgeries are conducted and do not appreciate that everything cannot be done in one day. General practice is becoming unsafe and dangerous due to inappropriate demand.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said that these increases in waiting times were ‘no surprise’, as practices were struggling to recruit GPs while resources are falling.

He added: The frustration is that all of the parties in the election campaign at the moment seem to be failing to address these really important issues that patients and GPs are so bothered about. None of the parties are really coming forward with any credible solutions for recruiting new GPs and making general practice attractive to young doctors.

‘We need them to create that atmosphere and to make a real change to what has been happening over the last decade or so.’

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said that his party will create a guarantee for patients to see a GP within 48 hours were his party to come to power, and it would create 8,000 new GPs by 2020 to achieve this.

The Conservatives target of a seven-day service will be made possible through an increase in the GP workforce of 5,000 new doctors, they claim.

However, none of the parties have yet spelled out how this will be made achievable.

An RCGP poll of 1,000 patients released this week found that half of them believed they would have to wait longer for appointments in two years’ time.

Survey results in full

How long is the average waiting time (currently) for a non-urgent appointment at your practice?

Less than a week: 39.5%

1-2 weeks: 35%

2-3 weeks: 19.5%

3-4 weeks: 5%

4-5 weeks: 1%

More than 5 weeks: 0%

 

How long do you predict the average waiting time for a non-urgent appointment will be in 12 months’ time?

Less than a week: 22%

1-2 weeks: 33%

2-3 weeks: 26%

3-4 weeks: 13%

4-5 weeks: 4%

More than 5 weeks: 2%

 

The survey launched on 9 February 2015, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 37 questions covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. Some 714 GP partners answered these questions.

Readers' comments (20)

  • 8.22am : '' I'm not sure the Govt is completely to blame - just look at the way some partners practice......''

    This is one example of partners working very very hard.

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  • this is awful - we need to think of the patients

    if only we were all salaried and worked 24hr rotas - think of the access possibilities ?

    do you really need families, sleep and to be paid?

    if only partners would give up their families, sleep and pay then access could be solved.

    it's not fair to ask one of the richest countries in the world (with a large number of billionaires) to pay for more doctors so we need to do our bit comrades for a better world ...

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  • Maybe, just maybe, the plan was to drive General Practice into the ground and then allow the private sector to come in. Remember some private providers are significant donors to Tories.
    Soon we will have 1 large health centre in every town, managed mostly by noctors, proctors and hoctors with a GP in overall charge and others will have to pay to see GP of choice.

    Its best if the GP federations start planning on this sooner rather than later.
    P.S.
    noctor-Nurse working like a doctor
    proctor-Physician Asst working like a doctor
    hoctor-HCA working like a doctor

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  • If we had defunctioning colostomies , bladder catheters and IV infusion of nutrients with amphetamine that would solve access problems as well . We would just need our bags changing a hose down twice per week and die before collecting the pension . Job done

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  • No problem.....remember "there's never been a better time to become a GP" as Cameron et al are fond of repeating when challenged about the state of GP. The damehood's in the post Maureen btw......

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  • How the heart sinks - we must all be eating too much lunch or playing golf or leeching the state of money/corruption/back hand deals.

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  • Looking at Choose & Book for local NHS hospital services, earliest appointments (across a range of hospitals) are:
    Cardiology 30 days
    Dermatology 41 days
    ENT 41 days
    Neurology 50 days
    Opthalmology 21 days
    Orthopaedics (knee) 40 days
    Urology 36 days.
    General practices face the same problems of trying to provide appointments with finite resources as hospital clinics do, and on this basis compare well.

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  • Thankyou for the balance Martin.
    On my way back from golf this morning I stepped over a load of dead and dying people to collect my huge pay packet on the way to luncheon at my club. Must remember to pay the salaried GP. He seems a bit frazzled.

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  • Anon 8.21am

    Made me laugh out loud

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  • Martin Breach 1.30pm -
    Those are amazing waiting times you have there! Ours are much longer for specialist referrals locally. Dermatology here is 3 months for an urgent referral, let alone routine ones!

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