Exclusive The average waiting time for a face-to-face GP appointment is currently significantly shorter than before the Covid-19 pandemic, a Pulse survey has revealed.
A Pulse survey of nearly a thousand GPs from across the UK, carried out over the past week, revealed that the average waiting time for a face-to-face non-urgent GP appointment after triage is currently just under nine days.
Meanwhile, patients waited about a week on average for a remote consultation with a GP.
This marks a significant decrease on August 2019, when a Pulse survey found the average wait for a routine GP appointment was more than two weeks (15 days), for the first time ever.
This was before Covid forced practices to switch to a ‘total triage’ approach in which all patients are expected to contact their surgery remotely to book an appointment.
This follows many media reports that general practice is ‘closed’ with no access to, or long waiting times for, an in-person appointment.
But most GPs who commented in Pulse’s survey said patients’ problems were usually dealt with one the same or next day, via a combination of consultation models.
One GP respondent said: ‘The myth that people are waiting days and days for a telephone appointment is unhelpful and demoralising as we are working our arses off.’
According to the GP, who is a partner at a Lanarkshire practice, ‘all patient requests are dealt with on the day they contact the surgery unless it becomes unmanageable’.
‘We have three doctors on a Monday so if there are more than 200 requests to speak to a doctor, some will be called back the next day’.
All emergency patient appointments take place on the same say, they stressed.
Dr Eithne MacRae, a GP partner from Merseyside, also said: ‘We try to see them all same day or next day.’
And she said any delay to this was ‘usually down to [the] patient and their schedules’.
Another GP, based in Leeds, said there is ‘no difference in waiting time for in-person or remote [appointments]’, adding that ‘anyone unwell speaks to a GP the same day’.
And a Nottingham GP said: ‘It is the patient’s choice as to which type of appointment they prefer to have. Each GP appointment can be face-to-face or telephone.’
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘General practice teams have been working hard throughout the pandemic, with appointments now back to pre-pandemic levels and this is alongside delivering the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history, protecting millions of people.’
The findings were similar to a snapshot survey by Pulse carried out in May, which showed the wait for an in-person non-urgent appointment was 8.7 days and a remote consultation 7.4 days.
Survey findings in full:
- More than half (52%) of respondents said patients wait less than a week for a non-urgent in-person appointment after triage, with 23% saying patients wait between one and two weeks.
- 14% of respondents said patients wait between two and three weeks, and 5% said patients wait between three and four weeks.
- 61% of respondents said patients wait less than a week for a non-urgent remote consultation appointment after triage (either video or telephone), and 22% said patients wait between one and two weeks.
- 10% of respondents said patients wait between two and three weeks, and 4% said the wait is between three and four weeks.
- The average waiting time – calculated by mid-point analysis – for a non-urgent in-person appointment following triage is 8.8 days, while the average wait for a phone or video consultation is 7.5 days.
Source: Pulse snapshot survey, September 2021.
951 GPs responded to the question ‘How long is the average waiting time for a non-urgent in-person appointment at your practice, following initial triage?’
964 GPs responded to the question ‘How long is the average waiting time for a non-urgent remote consultation appointment – either video or telephone – at your practice, following initial triage?’