Oh, please, no, not that AGAIN?! How many more times??!!
I believe it was Andy Warhol who said that, at some point in the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of consultation time. Though maybe I’m getting confused. Exasperation does that to you.
Whatever. Here we go again with the ‘idea’ of implementing a ‘standard’ 15-minute consultation. Brilliant. This piece of pop-practice-philosophy really doesn’t need rehashing – it needs Warhol’s electric chair.
What is it, exactly, that people don’t understand about the complete pointlessness of pitching for 15-minute appointments? We could all start booking at this rate from tomorrow. It’s entirely up to us – that’s why it’s so easy for NHS England to rebuff the idea. The traditional ten-minute appointment, they’d point out (correctly), is no diktat. It’s just our pragmatic and traditional response balancing the various demands of general practice.
But hey, give it a go. Book patients at quarter hourly intervals and check out what happens. You’ll notice that you’re offering fewer appointments per day, on account of maths. If you don’t believe me, experiment by booking them into four-hour-long consultations to absolutely minimise those stress-induced feelings of homi/sui-cide you normally get mid-surgery. The patients will love it, too – but not the wait for the appointment. And that disgruntlement will be aimed directly at us, and will add fuel to the raging anti-GP media conflagration.
So let’s rewind. What’s the motivation behind the request for 15-minute appointments? Less pressure, right? But that’s not achieved by an arbitrary appointment length – we all know that patients get the time they need, whether that is, gloriously, one minute, or, tragically, 30.
Whereas it IS achieved by a cap on the number of appointments we can reasonably and safely be expected to provide each day. That’s the idea worth revisiting. Not only does it ease the consultension in a more functional, flexible way. It also diverts the ire of appointment-starved patients towards government. After all, we GPs would be quantifiably working to the contractual/safety max. The fact that this means the punters have to wait a month for an appointment would be the Government’s fault for not resolving our issues of workload and personpower.
Which means the stress and reputational damage resulting from achieving lengthier consultations is sustained by the politicians, not us. Or, as Warhol’s mate, Lichtenstein, would put it, ‘Pow!!!’
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield