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More than 90% of GPs think 10-minute consultations are inadequate

Nine out of ten GPs think the ten-minute consultation standard is inadequate for patient care, the BMA’s biggest ever survey of the profession has found.

The BMA’s survey of nearly 16,000 grassroots GPs also found that two-thirds of GPs think longer, better quality consultations should be prioritised over the current drive to promote rapid access.

Both the Labour and Conservative parties have built their health strategies on pledges to improve access to general practice either through a 48 hour appointment standard, or seven day GP access for all patients.

But today’s results show GPs think other factors are more important, including: continuity of care (mentioned by 80% of GPs); trust and confidentiality between GP and patient (61%); and holistic care (51%).

The GPs surveyed said that longer appointments should be prioritised.

Around 67% of those surveyed said that consultations should be longer for certain patients, such as those with long-term conditions, and one in four said all patients should be able to have more than 10 minutes.

Only increasing core general practice funding (76%) and GP workforce (74%) were ranked above increasing consultation times as factors which would help GPs to do their job better.

The RCGP has already urged politicians to be cautious about driving access at the expense of continuity, and GPC chair Chaand Nagpaul branded the access pledges and promises to boost GP workforce over the next five years as ‘hollow and unsubstantiated’ if GPs rank the quality of work they do as a greater priority.

The survey also shows GPs aren’t fundamentally opposed to the idea of extended hours opening, with 51% saying practices should offer some extended opening, and 21% saying this could be provided through more GP networks.

Dr Nagpaul said that, while ‘willing’ to consider extended access, when GPs were asked if their own practice could deliver ‘blanket’ seven day services, 94% felt this would be impossible.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘This landmark poll highlights that GPs ability to care to patients is being seriously undermined by escalating workload, inadequate resourcing and unnecessary paperwork. Many GPs do not feel they have enough time to spend with their patients and that these intense pressures are beginning to damage local services.’

He added: ‘GPs also feel it is more important to provide longer consultations even if it means patients waiting longer to see a GP. And this comes at a time when politicians from all sides are making hollow and unsubstantiated pledges about dramatically increasing the number of GPs within five years, offering guaranteed appointments within 48 hours or funding Sunday opening when research shows those practices open in this period saw few patients booking an appointment.’

GP survey results

  • Only 8% feel that the standard 10-minute consultation is adequate
  • 67% feel there should be longer consultations for certain groups of patients, including those with long-term conditions
  • 93% say that their heavy workload has had a negative impact on the quality of patient services
  • 51% support individual practices offering some form of extended hours to patients
  • 94% do not support seven-day opening, but one in five GPs (21%) suggested they may be able to do so by working in networks with other GPs through shared facilities

Source: BMA survey of 15,560 GPs

Readers' comments (24)

  • The UK is in a terrible financial state and it is not improving despite what the Government says. So there will be no extra time for consultations. GP income will not be increased.

    There is a possibility that pharmacists, physicians assistants and more nurses could be brought in to help us, but the current only readily available supply is pharmacists. Unfortunately they are not trained as clinical pharmacists and so are less of a help than a nurse or nurse practitioner. The latter are like hen's teeth and young doctors will continue to avoid general practice as a career.

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  • The standard of general practice will continue to fall in the forthcoming years. Eventually, for those that can afford it, there will be the development of private general practice, akin to what is available in by then other similar third world countries. Of course there will be many more of them including Ireland, Greece and much of Europe.

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  • It would be good if a mixture of appointments could be offered 5 minutes, 10 minutes up to 45 minutes throughout the day. Then let the patient book the one they feel they need.

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  • fees / consultation is the only way forward to reduce demand and reduce inappropriate consultations.

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  • John Glasspool

    I scrapped 10 minute consults 10 months ago- by taking early retirement.

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  • I have elderly patients who use at least 5 minutes of their 10 minute appointment just to mobilise to a chair in my office! There is definitely a problem here that needs addressing.

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  • I wasn't aware that we were contractually obliged to work to 10 minutes. I don't.

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  • If patients need longer, we just suggest they make a double/triple appt. We considered the varying appt length idea but realised that if the 5 minute appt was all that was left, the 45 minute patient would still book it.

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  • I agree with 08:44. Our standard adult appointment is 15mins.

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  • Tell the GMC this..... next time they "hang a doctor" for burning out and/or making mistakes under these unsustainable pressures.....

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