Over a quarter of consultations take under five minutes, figures show
GPs rush patients through ‘like goods on a conveyer belt’: More than a quarter of consultations take five minutes or less in some regions, figures show
- 3.5million consultations lasted between one and five minutes in April this year
- Speedy appointments can have potentially fatal consequences as doctors rush
- Lib Dem health spokesman said: ‘These figures expose a stark postcode lottery’
- The RCGP called for GP consultations to be extended to 15 minutes by 2030
Patients are being rushed through GP appointments like ‘goods on a factory conveyor belt’, a report out today warns.
More than a quarter of consultations with family doctors are taking five minutes or less in some parts of the country, figures reveal.
Critics last night said the ‘stark postcode lottery’ means patients can struggle for weeks to get an appointment only to be seen for a matter of minutes.
Across England in April, 3.5million consultations lasted between one and five minutes – a fifth of attended appointments for which there is data.
Only half of these were longer than ten minutes.
But in some areas the number of patients being seen by doctors for only a few minutes was far higher.
Basildon and Brentwood in Essex was the worst in the country, with 27.6 per cent of appointments lasting five minutes or less, according to figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats.
It was followed by Wirral (27.5 per cent), Thurrock in Essex (27.3 per cent) and North East Lincolnshire (26.8 per cent).
By contrast, in Stoke-on-Trent just 15.7 per cent of patients were seen within five minutes, while 60 per cent saw their GP for longer than ten minutes – more than anywhere else in the country.
MPs were warned that ten-minute appointments are not safe, and make doctors unhappy and consider early retirement (Stock image) Doctor typing on computer keyboard in office
The speedy appointments raise the risk of doctors missing diseases and prescribing the wrong drugs, with potentially fatal consequences.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has previously called for the standard ten-minute GP consultation to be extended to 15 minutes by 2030. The latest figures show that less than a third – or 31.4 per cent – of GP appointments in April lasted 15 minutes or longer.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Daisy Cooper said last night: ‘These figures expose a stark postcode lottery. The Conservatives promised to recruit more family doctors but they are nowhere to be seen.
‘Even once people manage to get an appointment, too often they are rushed through because doctors have to fit so many patients in.
‘Doctors need to have time to properly assess their patients. Instead patients are being treated like goods on a factory conveyor belt. It is completely unsustainable.’
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly people, said: ‘There is no doubt that GPs are under so much pressure at the moment.’ But, he said shorter consultations may be appropriate if they are just to tell someone who has undergone tests that nothing is wrong.
In March, MPs were warned that ten-minute appointments are not safe, and make doctors unhappy and consider early retirement.
Dr Andrew Green, a recently retired GP, told the health and social care committee: ‘One of the things that made me finally give up normal clinical work was the feeling that I wasn’t happy with the work I’d done because I couldn’t fit what the patients needed into ten-minute appointments.’
Maria Caulfield, minister for primary care, said: ‘We’ve invested £520million to expand GP capacity and there are record numbers of GPs in training as we work to create more appointments to clear the Covid backlog.’
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