The Liberal Democrat Party has claimed patients in England are being ‘rushed’ through their GP appointments.
The party highlighted data based on NHS figures from March last year to February, showing 51 million GP appointments lasted less than five minutes during that period of time.
The figures show that the proportion of all appointments lasting one to five minutes in England ranged from 16% this February to almost 21% last October.
The Liberal Democrats blamed the Government’s failure to recruit more GPs, saying this has resulted in patients ‘waiting for weeks to get an appointment only to be rushed through in a matter of minutes’.
But the RCGP pointed out that a higher proportion of appointments during the time period analysed had lasted beyond their scheduled 10 minutes, adding that sometimes short appointments are appropriate.
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: ‘Many patients need time to properly talk through their symptoms with a GP, especially when they have complex health problems.
‘But the Government’s failure to recruit the extra GPs they promised has meant doctors are being forced to cram in more and more short appointments.
‘People are being left waiting weeks to get an appointment only to be rushed through in a matter of minutes.
‘Entire communities are paying the price for years of neglect under the Conservatives, who have driven local health services into the ground.
‘Liberal Democrats have set out a plan to boost GP numbers and guarantee people a right to an appointment within one week, so people can finally get the care and attention they deserve.’
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘Over the timeframe the Lib Dems have analysed, 345.8 million consultations were delivered in general practice and almost 40% lasted longer than 10 minutes – more than half, if you exclude those with an unknown length.
The RCGP has long called for 15-minute consultations in general practice by 2030, including in its ‘Fit for the future’ report published in 2019.
‘Increasingly, GPs do need more time with patients, particularly if they have complex or multiple health problems,’ said Professor Hawthorne.
‘However, this is not to say every patient will need this time as some simple conditions can be dealt with in less, particularly if it is not the GP they are seeing – for example, a simple blood test might only take a few minutes of a practice nurse’s time – so patients should not feel as though they are being “rushed through” if they have a short appointment.’
It comes after Labour earlier this month pledged ‘thousands more GPs’ to ‘bring back the family doctor and guarantee face-to-face appointments to all who want them’.