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Two-week appointment expectation ‘reasonable’ but GPs can’t meet it, says NHS England

Two-week appointment expectation ‘reasonable’ but GPs can’t meet it, says NHS England

NHS England’s primary care director has said that it is ‘reasonable’ for patients to expect to see a GP within two weeks, but that delivering this is currently impossible.

National director for primary care Dr Amanda Doyle made the comments at the Best Practice conference in Birmingham last week.

Referencing the health secretary’s recently announced ‘expectation’ for patients to be able to see their GP within two weeks, Dr Doyle said that while the expectations themselves are ‘reasonable’, GPs ‘just can’t deliver it’.

She told delegates: ‘We need to recognise that some of the stuff we’ve seen from the secretary of state recently in her Plan for patients is actually quite reasonable. 

‘It’s not unreasonable that if you’ve got an urgent clinical need, you get assessed the same day, and it’s not really unreasonable that if you need seeing – if you want to be seen – that we could offer you an appointment within two weeks.’

She added: ‘The problem we’ve got at the moment is that we just can’t deliver it. And it’s really, really clear from the numbers that we cannot deliver it – this is not people not trying to do it, it’s not people not working hard. 

‘We need to up the numbers of GPs and other clinical staff if we’re going to deliver what are actually pretty reasonable expectations.’

This winter, an NHS England information campaign will help people understand what they ‘can expect from services’, she said.

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Dr Doyle told delegates: ‘We’ve got a sort of information campaign ready to go. It may not be quite what you want, but it’s about what people can expect from services. ‘

The campaign will also cover ‘what to expect’ when patients ‘contact services’ or ‘when they might be offered an appointment with someone who’s not the doctor and explaining about who they can expect to see and the benefits and why that’s okay’, she added.

It comes as NHS England’s board last week issued a stark warning that demand for GP appointments is at record levels and ‘outstrips’ capacity.

Health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey’s new plan for patient access announced last month included two-week GP appointment targets and the new publication of practice-level appointment data in a bid to improve access to GP practices.

But just days later, NHS England announced that it would defer until April a PCN incentive scheme target measuring the percentage of patients who waited two weeks or less for an appointment.

Since then, the health secretary has said that she wants to go further than her two-week wait target for GP appointments.

Meanwhile, former longest-serving health secretary Jeremy Hunt was named as Chancellor on Friday, in a move which could have big implications for NHS spending.

Dr Doyle also told GPs attending the conference that general practice should move to a less target-based contract and that there will be ‘no additional’ winter funding to support GPs over the next few months.



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

Darren Tymens 19 October, 2022 10:05 am

I’m sorry Mrs Smith, you can’t see a doctor, but the good news is I have a remote appointment free next week with the PCN podiatrist in the E Hub 5 miles away. Perhaps in the meantime you could ask friends and family if they have antibiotics they might give you?’
This is the health system of the 5th largest economy in the world, 2022.

Michael Mullineux 19 October, 2022 11:34 am

A hint of pushback from NHSE Primary Care Director? Makes a refreshing change from the previous stooge.

Patrufini Duffy 19 October, 2022 12:43 pm

Blah-blah. See a GP for a panic attack on the bus after a hangover, wanting a dubious sick note to go on holiday and mole/skin tag check because Emily said so in Malaga. Oh, my flat mate needs an appointment too, because her pill makes her moody apparently after 7 years and Henry has knee pain after too many HiT classes and running in his high heels and he thinks that’s causing his ADHD for which he wants a referral for also.

The only reason for this whole narrative, is that you are the only gutter with a door for the faecal show rolling out in society. They sold something that is unachievable, free I want nannying nothingness. Cheap social worker you are now. A substitute for loneliness, emptiness and irresponsibility. Blagging it.

And the wait time for dentists and any specialist or allied professional beyond the GP?…months and months – rejections permissible, and they’ll discharge them at any whiff with “I couldn’t get through – please re-refer if required”.

SUBHASH BHATT 19 October, 2022 1:31 pm

How general practice has changed from 1970’sand 80’s.. seeing a gp in 2 weeks has become ambition.

Long Gone 19 October, 2022 3:26 pm

What nonsense! This concept is promulgated by people who have no idea how healthcare works and the dire state of general practice at the moment.
Firstly, any target is worthless if there’s insufficient workforce to meet it. And there is not. They have (almost) all left or retired or are totally burned out.
Secondly, as many of us know extremely well, one person’s six month old rash will be “urgent” on a Monday morning urgent clinic and another’s 90 minutes of crushing central chest pain will not be regarded by them as such. It takes training, years of experience and skill to sort out a priority for the wide spectrum of acuity and the permutations of seriousness vs stoicism.
It is mind boggling that we still have this discussion with politicians who frankly don’t know their ***e from their elbow.

Mr Marvellous 20 October, 2022 8:03 am

So specifying something that is overtly undeliverable is “reasonable”.

Only in NHS England-land….

Slobber Dog 20 October, 2022 8:42 am

NHSE seems to be staffed by inexperienced sixth formers, just like the government.