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Average GP waiting times remain at two weeks despite rescue measures

Exclusive The average wait for a GP appointment is around 13 days, despite measures introduced by the NHS to alleviate pressures on general practice.

A Pulse survey of 830 GPs revealed that the average waiting time  is the same as last year – but is up from ten days in 2015.

It also reveals that more than 40% of patients are having to wait longer than 14 days for a routine appointment.

The latest figures come after NHS England has implemented its GP Forward View, which aimed to free up time for GPs to see patients, as well as increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020. 

However, GP numbers are continuing to fall while attempts to reduce unnecessary appointments have so far failed.

Respondents put the increase in waiting times down to underfunding of general practice and lack of GPs.

Dr Zack Magrachi, a portfolio GP from Norwich, said: ‘Waiting times are going up. Patients are getting angry. I have now stopped any surgery work and mainly do OOHs and GP in A&E work where people are grateful to get an appointment.’

Dr Charlotte Ferriday, a GP in Devon, said that the need to see urgent patients meant routine waits became even longer.

She said: ‘We made sure we always triaged all calls so that all people who needed to be seen WERE seen when they needed to be seen however urgently that was. Truly routine patients had to wait about 3-4 weeks but seemed happy enough to wait.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘Unless the government takes decisive action, waits to see a GP will rocket to several weeks in the coming years as patient demand continues to rise, and will seriously compromise patient care. The government needs to urgently stem inappropriate demands on general practice when it has determined that one in four GP appointments are avoidable.

‘Despite the continued hard work of GPs and their staff, practices simply cannot offer enough appointments to patients to meet the growing need. The NHS is at breaking point and we need politicians of all parties to avoid ducking the serious challenges facing general practice and instead address the problems that are all too apparent.’

Pulse today revealed that GPs will have to see patients for four hours a week longer by 2022 in order to keep up with demand.

Waiting times survey results

How long is the average waiting time for non-urgent appointments at your practice?

Less than a week: 23%

1-2 weeks: 34%

2-3 weeks: 25%

3-4 weeks: 8%

4-5 weeks: 1%

More than 5 weeks: 1%

Don’t know: 6%

The survey was launched on 3 March 2017, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. A total of 837 GPs answered the question above