Two-week wait for GP appointments to become the norm in many practices 'within a year'
Exclusive Four in ten GPs predict the average waiting time for appointments at their practice will exceed two weeks from next April, as they struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of workload.
The survey of nearly 500 GPs shows that they expect average waiting times for an appointment to increase from nine days in April 2014 to 13 days from April 2015.
Only a fifth of GPs said that the average wait for a non-urgent appointment at their surgery was more than two weeks currently. But this proportion doubled to 40% when they were asked for their prediction of waiting times in 12 months time.
GP leaders said that this is indicative of increasing workloads and reductions in resources, with GPs receiving a funding uplift way below inflation this year.
The results also showed that less than half of GPs - 43% - said that the average waiting time for a non-urgent appointment is currently less than a week.
However, only one-quarter of GPs said they would be able to offer less than one week average waiting times from April next year.
The results follow a Labour Party pledge earlier this month to consider a contractual change that GPs would see patients offered an appointment within 48 hours.
It also chimes with analysis by the RCGP, which estimated that 34 million patients in England will fail to get an appointment with their GP in 2014, because of reductions in funding for general practice over the last decade.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These survey results demonstrate what all GPs know – GP workload is dramatically increasing but the resources to deliver a good service are decreasing.’
‘Instead of funding cuts we need real and long-term investment to take on more GPs and improve practice premises. That’s why we launched our “Your GP Cares” campaign, and we hope as GPs and patients join us we can make NHS England the Department of Health listen to our concerns and provide the investment we so urgently need.’
Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said that GP shortages and surges in patient demand are the reasons behind the bleak predictions.
He said: ‘You will read in the news that some patients are waiting three weeks for an appointment, but it’s the same story as saying that the GP at that practice is working a 14-hour day. It’s interesting because in the media when A&Es are full we hear that staff are working really hard, but when GPs surgeries cannot see patients quickly the perception is that GPs are not working hard enough.’
Survey results in full
How long is the average waiting time for a non-urgent appoint at your practice?
Less than a week: 43.7%
1-2 weeks: 37%
2-3 weeks: 14.9%
3-4 weeks: 3.8%
4-5 weeks: 0.2%
More than five weeks: 0.4%
How long do you predict the average waiting time for a non-urgent appointment will be in 12 months’ time?
Less than a week: 25.9%
1-2 weeks: 33%
2-3 weeks: 26.5%
3-4 weeks: 10.2%
4-5 weeks: 3.3%
More than weeks: 1.1%
About the survey: Pulse launched this survey of readers on 15 April 2014, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 25 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on any one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletters, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to specify their job title. A small number of non-GPs were screened out to analyse the results for this question. This question was answered by 460 GPs.