Liberal Democrats plan to provide patients with a legal right to see their GP within seven days, or in 24 hours in case of an emergency.
As it stands, over one in four patients in England wait more than two weeks for a GP appointment, the party said.
Then health secretary Therese Coffey last month announced an ‘expectation’ that GP practices should offer non-urgent GP appointments within two weeks.
And Pulse revealed today that the new Cabinet is sticking by the ‘Plan for Patients’, including publishing practice-level appointment data from later this month.
Under the Liberal Democrats’ plan to guarantee appointments within seven days, ‘the policy would be enshrined into law in the NHS constitution, putting a duty on the government and health service to make sure it happens’, the party said.
‘It would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs, fixing pension rules to prevent so many doctors retiring early, and launching a recruitment drive to encourage those who’ve left the NHS to return,’ it added.
Party leader Ed Davey, who is expected to announce the plan in an Autumn speech this weekend, said: ‘Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week, or within 24 hours if they are in urgent need.’
‘This would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS,’ he added.
The plan assumes an increase in recruitment and retention of GPs, introduction of a 24/7 booking line and cutting bureaucracy to free up appointments.
The party’s analysis showed that in September, five million GP appointments in England had waiting times of more than 14 days, accounting for 17.9% of the total.
This was an increase on the beginning of the year, when 11.9% of appointments saw waiting times longer than two weeks.
Meanwhile in secondary care, the NHS elective waiting list hit an all-time high of seven million patients last month.
The BMA recently recommended that GP practices should ‘move to a waiting list system’ based on clinical need, which could mean patients with non-urgent problems may wait a number of weeks for an appointment.