Exclusive The average waiting time for a routine GP appointment has almost hit two weeks, a Pulse survey has revealed.
The survey, answered by 831 respondents, found that the average waiting time for an appointment was just under 13 days – an increase from 10 days last year.
The respondents said that they expect the average time to be around 17 days next year.
GP leaders said that this proves that the crisis in general practice is having a real effect on patients.
It comes as practices are having to stop providing appointments in advance – only accepting emergency appointments – due to workload pressures.
Around 41% of GPs who answered the question said that the wait was longer than two weeks, with 15% saying it was longer than three weeks.
The situation has deteriorated since last year, when the average wait for an appointment was 10 days, and only 26% of GPs said the wait was longer than two weeks.
In last year’s survey, GPs predicted that the average wait would be 14 days by this year, and a mid point analysis of the survey this year shows that this was not far off.
If this year’s survey about projected waiting times are accurate, then patients will be waiting 17 days for a routine appointment on average by next year.
GPs say that an increase in demand has led to the increase in waiting times.
Dr Janine O’Kane, a GP partner in Northern Ireland, said she expects waiting times to hit five weeks from next year.
She said: ‘Our appointments get booked up as soon as they come out. We put them on erratically usually one to two weeks at a time… There is no limit to the demand.’
Dr Marie Williams, a GP in Blackpool, said that she is ‘expecting list to keep increasing and no new staff in sight’.
She also casts doubt on health managers’ attempts to fill the gaps with non-GPs, adding: ‘My concern is that even covering work with other professionals (also in short supply) demand for access continues to escalate.
‘Fuelled by a mixture of an ageing population, the survival of people with multiple complex problems, the demise of social care and unrealistic expectations fuelled by the Government.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘These figures show that the longer the crisis in general practice continues the worse it gets for patients.
‘It’s why there is an urgent need to provide significant recurrent funding now to support the workforce expansion that is fundamental to managing workload pressures and resolving this situation. It’s a crisis that cannot wait until 2021 to be resolved.’
How long is the average waiting time for a non-urgent appointment at your practice?
Under 1 week: 26%
1-2 weeks: 33%
2-3 weeks: 26.5%
3-4 weeks: 12%
4-5 weeks: 1.5%
More than five weeks: 1%
Total number of respondents: 831
How long do you predict the average waiting time for a non-urgent appointment at your practice will be in 12 months’ time?
Under 1 week: 16%
1-2 weeks: 23%
2-3 weeks: 28%
3-4 weeks: 19%
4-5 weeks: 10%
More than five weeks: 3%
Total number of respondents: 785
The survey was launched on 28 April 2016, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 24 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 831 and 785 GPs answered these questions.