GPs Call for 15 Minute Standard Appointments

Nicky Broyd

May 21, 2019

Longer standard appointment times feature strongly in the Royal College of GPs' (RCGP) vision for the future of general practice in a report called Fit for the Future .

The current 10-minute slots should be replaced with 15 minute bookings for most patients by 2030, with longer appointments for those with more complex needs.

The RCGP says the UK has some of the shortest GP consultations amongst economically-advanced nations at an average 9.2 minutes, with an average of two and a half health problems discussed in each appointment.

The RCGP also points to estimates of the number of people with a single chronic condition increasing by 4% a year, and those with multiple chronic conditions by 8% a year, between 2003/4-2015/16. Patients with long-term conditions account for around 50% of all GP appointments.

'Unfit for Purpose'

In a statement Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, said: "It is abundantly clear that the standard 10-minute appointment is unfit for purpose. It's increasingly rare for a patient to present with just a single health condition, and we cannot deal with this adequately in 10 minutes.

"GPs want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients, considering all the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health. But this depends on us having more time to spend with patients, and the resources and people to allow us to do this.

"NHS bodies across the UK do not stipulate how long GP appointments should be, but GP workload is soaring, GP numbers are falling, and patients are already waiting too long to secure an appointment as a result. Without more resources and an expanded workforce, longer consultations would simply mean increased waiting times, undermining patients' ability to access the care that they need."

Wide Consultation

Fit for the Future was compiled from consultation with more than 3,000 GPs, other health professionals, patients, and research commissioned from The King's Fund.

Other predictions include:

  • Improved GP-patient records with a personalised 'data dashboard', accessible by healthcare professionals across the NHS. This would include genomic profile information and data from wearable monitoring devices.

  • GP practice networks evolving into 'wellbeing hubs' offering expanded clinical and non-clinical services, with more digital and video access.

  • 'Micro-teams' to offer improved continuity of care alongside named GPs. The team would include practice nurses and pharmacists, and could also include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, and health coaches.

  • GPs practices will work in networks or clusters rather than in isolation. This would allow for pooled resources while allowing smaller practices to retain independence and patient lists.

  • Greater use of artificial intelligence (AI) for better triage of the severity of health needs, enhanced diagnosis, flagging of 'at risk' patients, and identifying most appropriate care pathways.

The RCGP vision relies on 'enablers' including general practice receiving at least 11% of the NHS budget across the UK, and an expansion of the GP and practice workforce by thousands. The report also calls for GP specialty training to be extended to at least 4 years.

Not a Pipe Dream

Prof Stokes-Lampard said: "Much of what we envision for the future of our profession we are already embarking upon in some form or another – but we need to make sure that whatever we do is safe, evidence-based and ultimately works to make general practice and the wider NHS more sustainable. In many cases, we’re simply not there, yet.

"Ours is an ambitious vision but it is not a pipe dream. Realising it will depend on having a sufficiently resourced service to keep people well and provide them with the care they need around the clock, and we have identified several key enablers to deliver this.

"With these building blocks in place we can not only deliver world class, patient-centred primary care, we can ensure that being a GP is the best job in the world."

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