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Standard 10-minute GP consultations unfit for purpose, says doctors body

The average length of GP consultations in the UK is 9.2 minutes, one of the lowest among economically advanced nations
Sally Wardle (PA)

STANDARD 10-minute GP appointments are "unfit for purpose" and should be a "thing of the past" by 2030, leading doctors have said.

Extending face-to-face consultations to at least 15 minutes would allow family doctors more time to help patients with complex health conditions, a new report by the Royal College of GPs suggests.

The document, outlining the professional body's vision for the future of general practice, states that longer and shorter appointments should also be available to suit the various needs of the population.

The average length of GP consultations in the UK is 9.2 minutes, one of the lowest among economically advanced nations, previous research suggests.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, 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 a just 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."

In its report, the Royal College of GPs also predicts that family doctors should have access to a personalised "data dashboard" for every patient by 2030.

It adds that "micro-teams", including multi-disciplinary experts, would be responsible for patient care and improve how it is coordinated.

The report suggests that for this vision to be realised, general practice will need to receive at least 11 per cent of the NHS budget and the GP full-time workforce will need to be expanded by thousands.

GP speciality training will also need to be extended to at least four years to properly prepare trainees to deal with all the conditions they may see in practice.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "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."

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chairman at the British Medical Association, said: "As more and more patients live with a number of complex conditions, GPs are increasingly concerned that short consultations with their patients are rarely conducive with providing the high level of care that people expect and deserve.

"This unreasonable time pressure also has a major impact on the mental wellbeing of doctors.

"No GP wants to rush their time with patients, squeezing it into a 10-minute window when it needs far longer, but they are forced to do so by the sheer volume of workload they are faced with.

"While it is for practices to determine how long their appointments should be, the BMA wants them to have the necessary resources and workforce capacity to be able to dedicate appropriate time to each patient and set their own safe workload limits."

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