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Routine appointments longer than 10 minutes offered by one in eight GPs

One in eight practices routinely books consultations longer than 10 minutes, and some are even booking patients for over 15 minutes, according to a new study.

A survey of hundreds of practices found a significant minority are adapting their appointment booking to accommodate patients with more complex health needs, although the vast majority still only provide 10 minute slots.

It comes after the RCGP renewed its call for longer appointment times in a letter to all four UK health departments, arguing it would enable the profession to manage patients more effectively and would save costs.

The survey was published this week in the British Journal of General Practice, and involved 1,492 trainees providing evidence on the current consultation lengths offered by their GP trainers.

Some 83% of practices provided 10 minute appointments, 11.4% provided appointments of 10 to 15 minutes and 1.5% provided appointments of more than 15 minutes, while 2.7% booked consultations shorter than 10 minutes.

When asked what length of appointment time they would prefer, the majority of trainees said they would like 15-minute appointments (56%), 27% said they would prefer appointments of 11-14 minutes and just 13% were happy with 10-minute appointments.

Authors Dr Greg Irving, former chair of the RCGP AiT Committee and a GP in Merseyside, and Dr John Holden, a GP in Wigan, said the study showed there was growing support for 15-minute appointments to be routine.

‘We are encouraged that trainees largely recognise that longer consultations are needed in general practice. This will undoubtedly need reorganization within practices, but we have been able to offer 15-minute appointments as standard for eight years in our practice with huge benefits for ourselves, and, we are confident, for our patients too.'

‘We believe the RCGP and other NHS policy makers should unequivocally advocate 15-minute consultations.'

In a letter sent to all health departments in March, RCGP chairs from the four UK countries called for longer appointment times in order to facilitate a shift in care from hospitals into the community.

It read: ‘Increasing GP consulting time would have the additional benefit of realising cost savings by facilitating earlier interventions, reducing referrals and the number of patients receiving on-going secondary care and addressing long-term conditions and multiple-morbidity more efficiently.'

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