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Government announces new two-week wait target for GP appointments

Government announces new two-week wait target for GP appointments

GPs must see patients who ‘need’ an appointment within two weeks, health secretary and deputy Prime Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey will announce tomorrow.

Improving access to general practice will be the ‘centrepiece’ of Dr Coffey’s new Our Plan for Patients, due to be published tomorrow (Thursday).

It will include her expectation that everyone who needs an appointment should get one within two weeks, while the most urgent patients must be seen on the day.

It is currently unclear how this will be policed, and whether the ‘need’ will be defined by GPs or patients.

The plan will also include ‘changing funding rules to recruit extra support staff so hardworking GPs can focus on treating patients’.

The Government said this would ‘free up funding for practices to employ more roles, including GP assistants and more advanced nurse practitioners’.

It remains unclear what a ‘GP assistant’ is.

The plan is also set to promise more information available for patients, with ‘appointments data published at a practice level for the first time ever’.

Pharmacists will also be able to prescribe and manage more medicines, including contraception, which the Government says will free up to two million GP appointments a year.

Pharmacies will also take referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses including coughs, sore throats and headaches.

The one million volunteers who helped out in the pandemic will be asked to come forward again in a ‘national endeavour’ to help the NHS.

Dr Coffey is expected to say: ‘Our Plan for Patients will make it easier to get a general practice appointment and we will work tirelessly to deliver that, alongside supporting our hardworking GP teams.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘It’s a shame that the health secretary didn’t talk to the College and to our members on the frontline before making her announcement because we could have informed her of what is really needed to ensure a GP service that meets the needs of patients and is fit for the future.

‘Lumbering a struggling service with more expectations, without a plan as to how to deliver them, will only serve to add to the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are facing, whilst having minimal impact on the care our patients receive.’

He pointed out that ‘around 85% of appointments in general practice are already happening within two weeks of being booked, with 44% being delivered on the day they are booked – both higher figures than in 2019 – and those taking longer than two weeks after booking may be routine or regular appointments for which the timing is therefore appropriate’.

And he added: ‘GPs share patients’ frustrations when we cannot deliver the care we want to deliver in a timely way. But we are caring for an increasing number of patients, with increasingly complex health needs, and carrying out more consultations every month than before the pandemic – yet with fewer qualified, full-time equivalent GPs than in 2015.’

The 2021 winter access plan had previously seen health secretary Sajid Javid confirming the Government’s intention to publish practice-level data, including the proportion of face-to-face appointments.

Professor Marshall said: ‘We also need more details about the proposal outlined to publish more practice-level data. Whilst we support transparency we strongly caution against creation of a “league tables”, which we know from international research evidence do not work in improving access to or standards of care.

‘Different GP practices will serve different patient demographics, who will have differing health needs and services will be tailored to meet these. Introducing arbitrary performance rankings compares apples with pears and will only serve to work against and demoralise those working in practices that “rank” lower.’

And BMA GP Committee for England chair Dr Farah Jameel welcomed the health secretary’s acknowledgement that there is ‘a problem with general practice’, but said she ‘could solve this better with meaningful dialogue and constructive engagement with GPs rather than yet another new set of ill-advised undeliverable targets’.

She added: ‘As clinicians, day in, day out we watch our communities suffer the harms of poorly thought-through headline-grabbing Government announcements. These may be well-meaning but don’t address the fundamental issues.

‘The target of GPs now offering appointments within two weeks is simply another addition to a tick-box culture highlighting a tone-deaf Government approach when it comes to those delivering the service on the ground.’

Dr Jameel called instead for a ‘genuine strategy’ to address the GP ‘workforce crisis’.

Pulse revealed in July that up to 40% of funding available for hiring additional roles staff was unspent in each of the first two years of the scheme.

But a large study found that employing healthcare workers other than GPs or nurses leads to a drop in patient satisfaction.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Eric Wilkinson 21 September, 2022 11:19 pm

Here we go again. Same old same. Hopeless shambles.

Sam Tapsell 21 September, 2022 11:37 pm

“If everything is a target, nothing is a target.”
What can we stop doing? QOF? IIF?

Turn out The Lights 22 September, 2022 7:21 am

Don’t pre-book appointments on the day only when you are full you are full.You can not creat time or less work.As for league table couldn’t give a crap as soon as I come near to breaching the life time allowance I out what ever hairbrained scheme these fu@@ wits come up with.I bet I’m not the only one.

Just Your Average Joe 22 September, 2022 7:31 am

Dear new health secretary

No chance this is happening unless you start paying us per GP contact rather than an unlimited number of patient demand led appointments a year.

There are not enough GPs and flogging the service to unlimited demanding patients will just drive more health workforce to leave. Patients complain when unable to be seen when not needed or redirected to a more appropriate place.

Take care.

Adam Crowther 22 September, 2022 7:37 am

What a terrible “plan for patients” will serve to worsen an already dire situation for primary healthcare teams and patients alike. When will they realise that there is a direct correlation between how well a workforce is cared for and it’s “productivity” 🤔

Simon Gilbert 22 September, 2022 7:49 am

Re the perpetual aim for pharmacists to save us:
1. At least one of our local pharmacies doesn’t always have a pharmacist on site to dispense drugs as it runs on locums, let alone assess patients.
2. Even signposting/referring for simple problems such as hayfever leads to rejections due to ‘criteria’.
3. The cohort of patients/kids with a cough who present to pharmacy vs present to GP vs present to A/E may overlap but are NOT the same. Forcing someone who wants a medical assessment to see a pharmacist, unless a clinician has triaged, is risky and unsatisfying for all.
4. Risk – just because 95% of children with respiratory infection need only advice AFTER history and examination that doesn’t mean 95% of children with coughs should be assessed by a pharmacist.

Mo Sul 22 September, 2022 7:59 am

Fire from the hip, again , this is going to lead to more workforce leaving. they could not recruit GPs but they on their target to end the NHS

An Apple A Day 22 September, 2022 8:00 am

The only solution I can see is to remove all same day appointments from GP surgeries, letting us tackle pre booked patients and long term conditions. All “same day” patients should be dealt in another facility by the GP assistants and senior nurses. The walk in centres might be an ideal venue. The extra travel required may help focus the patients’ minds as to whether their problem is really that urgent. I’m sure we all agree that it is same day demand that impacts on pre booked waiting time. Weren’t walk in centres created for this purpose?

Dylan Summers 22 September, 2022 8:13 am

It sounds like at present it’s just an aspiration.

Not clear if it will become an indicator that’s actually monitored and rewarded. Ironically the easiest way to improve your score would be to reduce your access: EG reduce number of staff answering phones. That way lots of would-be appointment requests never make it into your data.

Sarah Annetts 22 September, 2022 8:24 am

Another lot of complete tosh from a minister who has no idea how we actually work.

However, just to correct something in the article: GP Assistant is a recognised new role with proper training. Ours is an excellent addition to our team, acting as a sort of cross between HCA and doctor’s personal assistant. This absolutely does NOT replace any doctors but can reduce the pressure on the existing team.

kathryn Moore 22 September, 2022 9:52 am

Here we go again. Can’t face any more of this. Early retirement in motion.

Long Gone 22 September, 2022 10:30 am

That’ll solve it. Stroke of genius. Why didn’t we think of that?
A new target with no meaningful resources to hit it. That’s novel. Never tried that before. What could possibly go wrong?

Gill Bogle 22 September, 2022 10:34 am


David Banner 22 September, 2022 10:44 am

– “need” or “want”?
-appt “with a GP” or “with GP or other clinician”?

Patients “want” to see a (often non existent) GP.
They frequently don’t “need” to, and triage with a (usually excellent) noctor should suffice.
Since this is heavily driven by patient satisfaction surveys it’s unlikely it will deliver what patients want, even though it will almost certainly provide what they need.

The Prime Minister 22 September, 2022 10:51 am


SUBHASH BHATT 22 September, 2022 11:41 am

Seems reasonable to me . I thought one week or 10 days days even better.

Patrufini Duffy 22 September, 2022 11:48 am

I have tried to define urgent in General Practice over the years, and you know what, I can’t. Basically, an utter orchestrated cover up for closing local health centres, a shoddy 111 service, empty social care, ambulance delays, lack of individual and family responsibilities, lost well baby clinics and closed walk in centres. A not so smart headline by C-list politicians, and cover up for delayed hospital appointments and backlog. Keeping the public in your face, at your doors and nannying them while the system thinks of more bullet points and hides the truth of what they’re doing, selling it off and welcoming transatlantic friends. Your plan is obvious and comical.

But, this is good news.
I will now move all my same day UTI and panic attacks and bloated IBS and can’t be ar*ed to move back pain and weekend coughs to 2 weeks time. Then refer them all into secondary care due to the mere distaste of it all and to crush the system and give perverse narcissistic leaders a chronic migraine. You’ll get a cluster headache too when you see that we no longer safely (or medicolegally) manage any chest pain, abdominal pain, limb pain, acute paediatrics or possible sepsis or fever and thus send all such cases into the protected nameless providers that are forever funded and shielded from your media nonsense. Your game in NHSE is over. The institutes will fall and we will send the public to your doors and tell them the truth of what you are doing. Don’t worry, the Panorama programme is due and whistleblowers ready in their thousands.

Colin Spencer 22 September, 2022 2:28 pm

Reorganisation/ shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic has reached a new phase; the changes amount to parachuting more chairs and more passengers onto the sinking ship along with more poorly trained crew unfamiliar with the problems of the vessel. Meanwhile skilled crew are drowning.
Appraisal/GMC/CQC etc rules the skilled/ experienced/ knackered whilst relatively untrained unskilled issue reassuring noises to worried patients or cry “help me” to the Professionals !

Truth Finder 22 September, 2022 2:53 pm

She is clueless. Time to go private. Professionals manage their own time and treatments.

John Evans 22 September, 2022 3:18 pm

What will they do or can they do? They definitely don’t want to employ you as salaried and I am not sure that USA healthcare providers are ready yet.

As far as the public is concerned, the GPs are paid amazingly well and only work 2-3 hours twice a day, with 1 day off mid-week and no weekends or nights. Don’t expect any sympathy or gratitude for flogging yourselves (from anything more than a minority of your caseload). Indeed should the pressure lead to error, then it is “good luck at the GMC”.