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GPs to spend four hours a week longer seeing patients by 2022 to meet demand

Exclusive GPs will have to devote more than an extra session a week seeing patients just to keep up with patient demand by 2022 unless there are radical changes, a major Pulse analysis has revealed.

The analysis also revealed that the Conservative Party’s aim to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020 will not be enough to keep up with demand, and GPs will still need to work two hours a week longer.

GP leaders have said that GPs can’t work any longer hours, and as a result waiting times will ‘rocket’ due to the increased demand.

Pulse looked at increases in patient demand and patient population to project how many hours GPs will have to work by the end of the next parliament to maintain current waiting times, after various studies found that patients are having to see their GP more often – including a study by the King’s Fund yesterday.

The analysis found that with no increase in GP numbers, or success in reducing the number of unnecessary appointments, it would require GPs to see patients 28 hours a week to meet demand – not including the administration involved – up from 24 hours per week currently.

If the next Government is successfully in finding 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, then GPs would still have to see patients more than 25 hours a week just to maintain current waiting times.

However, GP workforce numbers have decreased in the past year, suggesting that even these efforts will be unsuccessful.

The one measure that would allow GPs to cut their workload is if NHS England is successful is eliminating the 27% of appointments it estimates are ‘unnecessary’.

However, Pulse has already revealed that these efforts have so far been unsuccessful, with CCGs unable to stop hospitals dumping work on GPs and a £30m programme to share good practice failing to resonate with grassroots GPs.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, says: ‘There is no way any GP can work harder. Eight in ten GPs say they cannot provide safe care. We need to reduce workload. If we carry on like this, we won’t have any GPs working. GPs are unwilling to put up with intolerable workload.’

It comes as Pulse reports today that the average waiting time for routine GP appointments is now 13 days.

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Figures box – June 2017 issue cover story