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Independents' Day

Average waiting time for GP appointment increases 30% in a year

Exclusive The average waiting time for a routine GP appointment has almost hit two weeks, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey, answered by 831 respondents, found that the average waiting time for an appointment was just under 13 days – an increase from 10 days last year.

The respondents said that they expect the average time to be around 17 days next year.

GP leaders said that this proves that the crisis in general practice is having a real effect on patients.

It comes as practices are having to stop providing appointments in advance – only accepting emergency appointments – due to workload pressures.

Around 41% of GPs who answered the question said that the wait was longer than two weeks, with 15% saying it was longer than three weeks.

The situation has deteriorated since last year, when the average wait for an appointment was 10 days, and only 26% of GPs said the wait was longer than two weeks.

In last year’s survey, GPs predicted that the average wait would be 14 days by this year, and a mid point analysis of the survey this year shows that this was not far off.

If this year’s survey about projected waiting times are accurate, then patients will be waiting 17 days for a routine appointment on average by next year.

GPs say that an increase in demand has led to the increase in waiting times.

Dr Janine O’Kane, a GP partner in Northern Ireland, said she expects waiting times to hit five weeks from next year.

She said: ‘Our appointments get booked up as soon as they come out. We put them on erratically usually one to two weeks at a time… There is no limit to the demand.’

Dr Marie Williams, a GP in Blackpool, said that she is ‘expecting list to keep increasing and no new staff in sight’.

She also casts doubt on health managers’ attempts to fill the gaps with non-GPs, adding: ‘My concern is that even covering work with other professionals (also in short supply) demand for access continues to escalate.

‘Fuelled by a mixture of an ageing population, the survival of people with multiple complex problems, the demise of social care and unrealistic expectations fuelled by the Government.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘These figures show that the longer the crisis in general practice continues the worse it gets for patients.

‘It’s why there is an urgent need to provide significant recurrent funding now to support the workforce expansion that is fundamental to managing workload pressures and resolving this situation. It’s a crisis that cannot wait until 2021 to be resolved.’

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

Under 1 week: 26%

1-2 weeks: 33%

2-3 weeks: 26.5%

3-4 weeks: 12%

4-5 weeks: 1.5%

More than five weeks: 1%

Total number of respondents: 831


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

Under 1 week: 16%

1-2 weeks: 23%

2-3 weeks: 28%

3-4 weeks: 19%

4-5 weeks: 10%

More than five weeks: 3%

Total number of respondents: 785


The survey was launched on 28 April 2016, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 24 questions asked 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. A total of 831 and 785 GPs answered these questions.

Readers' comments (26)

  • So who will take the rap when there is a delay in diagnosis? " i've had this for two weeks doctor ,but I couldn't get to see you". Defense fees will increase by 50%.

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  • As the wait increases some patients aren't willing to wait. They often misrepresent their conditions to the receptionist and get an emergency appointment.

    This makes on call days even more stressful.

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  • What was the survey response rate though?

    (On another thread I calculated it was in the order of 1%, and so statistically meaningless. Glad to be corrected if I'm mistaken.)

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Dr Summers - this is a snapshot, not a double blind peer reviewed paper. Useful as an indicator though. In Swindon, one large practice has a 6 week wait and another is so under stress that it cannot do forward bookings at all. 3-4 weeks is average here.
    There is no limit to demand or expectation and the new resources from the GP Forward View are coming along slowly - we do need to see evidence of change here to help the morale of myself and all my colleagues in the front line.

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  • Diminished interest in becoming a GP
    Diminished interest in remaining a GP
    Increased interest in retiring early
    Increased interest in becoming part time
    Increased interest in travelling abroad
    Increased intensity of punitive regulation
    Diminished funding in real terms
    Increased rates of ill health and mental health
    Increased rates of self harming behaviours

    So simply write a strategy to address these and in truth you could turn things around
    A strategy that puts less controls in place and more freedoms recognising that Primary Care is complex where detailed complicated solutions do not fit - establish some "simple rules"

    Wake up!

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  • why any surprise that in a climate of expecting to offer same day/48hr access or equivalent,for whichever criteria we use, that these appointments can't also be available to pre-book in any quantities.Maybe some clever physicists could come up with some kind of quantum appointments that could exist simultaneously now and 2 weeks into the future? NO JH don't even think about trying it

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Dr Ilves - you are right. One thing seldome talked about is the amazing shot-self-in-foot of the reduced lifetime allowance to £1m which most full time GPs will hit in their early 50's. Since the NHS Pension scheme was the main reason many GPs stayed at their desks, this is a major contributor to early retirement - and there is a large cohort of GPs over the age of 55, many of whom have been working full time - will need 1.5 or 2 portfolio GPs to replace the service commitment of each of them.

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  • perfect environment for private GP practice to start up and thrive. All part of the grand plan.

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  • The lack of resources in primary care is unprecedented. I am writing this from a day case unit in hospital. I have been seen by two anaesthetists two nurses an ODA and two surgeons. There are staff everywhere. I used to work as a GP in Canada. I had three consultation rooms and a nurse that took a history from patients before I went in to consult patients. There were separate staff that looked after taking money from patients and billing.

    Compare that to UK General Practice.

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  • @ Dr Swinyard

    Don't forget your annual limit which is now £40k I believe. If a FT GP is lucky to earn £100k then the superann on that will not leave a lot of leeway for the value of the pot to increase especially as people head towards retirement.

    Government policy is having a major effect. Just look at how many posts in the NHS with 1% annual pay rises will fall below the £9 p/h living wage by 2020.

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