This site is intended for health professionals only

Half-hour GP appointments ‘should be the norm’, says RCGP

GP appointments lasting 30 minutes should be the norm rather than the exception in order to ‘do justice' to patients with multiple complex conditions, says a senior figure at the RCGP.

RCGP honorary secretary Professor Amanda Howe admitted the move to longer appointments needed ‘workforce planning', but said it was an inevitable consequence of the shift towards managing a greater proportion of long-term conditions in primary care.

Professor Howe made the claim in an exclusive interview with Pulse that covered extended GP training, women's place in medicine and GP workload and more.

Professor Howe, a GP in Norwich and professor of primary care at the University of East Anglia, said by limiting their session to 10 minutes GPs ‘cannot do their job properly' in patients aged over 65 with several chronic diseases, for example.

She said: ‘Sometimes we know that we need a really thorough, long appointment to do the job properly, and we need to plan that in rather than making it an exception. The patient may have hypertension, diabetes and arthritis. If you're trying to do your job properly and not make them keep coming back, you need longer [than 10 minutes].

‘It may be that we need to be making the case, within the workload planning, for quarter of an hour or even half-hour appointments – like an outpatient appointment would be – if you have a complex patient, to do them justice.'

Earlier this year, Pulse reported that a survey of hundreds of practices found a significant minority are adapting their appointment booking to accommodate patients with more complex health needs, although the vast majority still only provide 10 minute slots. 

Professor Howe was the principle author of a recent report to the RCGP committee on generalism, which said general practice should be seen as a specialty and recommended a move towards longer GP appointment times.

Dr Howe said: ‘We have a lot of good nursing staff and care assistants that can do quite a lot with patients as well, but that probably means the patients that are coming to me are those at the more complicated end of things.

‘We are making the point that the job remit is wider and the patient expectations are greater, so we need more time.'

Click here to watch the Big Interview with Professor Amanda Howe