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Posted on 12th January 2017

GPs under pressure, tell patients to keep it to one illness per appointment

GP shortages in the National Health Service have reached crisis point and patients are being told to keep it to one illness per 10-minute appointment.

Patients with chronic diseases have been told they are only to raise one thing at each appointment and that they cannot ask to extend their appointment, even if they have multiple medical problems.

This move is particularly concerning to those with multiple chronic illness who live in areas where the waiting time for an appointment can be up to a month.

The move by GPs to impose the rule is nationwide, and has caused outrage from patients’ groups who say this move is putting people’s health at serious risk.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the head of The Royal College of GPs admitted she was “saddened” by the move.

“For a lot of consultations, particularly for people with chronic diseases or any psychological element to it, to be pressured into 10 minutes is really unhelpful — 20 minutes is much more appropriate,”

“If you double the length of appointments you need twice the number of GPs to see the same number of patients. We just can’t do it. We haven’t got enough doctors for the service at the moment.”

This week it emerged that 42 A&E departments had told ambulances to divert to other hospitals in the last week, double the number during the same period in 2015.

GP practiced have increasingly limited patients to one problem per appointment, but have always allowed the option to extend or double the length of the appointments when necessary.

The new structure means a patient would need to book a new separate appointment for each problem they wish to discuss, delaying the consultation by up to a month in some cases.

Some surgeries have taken to putting the ‘rules’ on their website and having signs up in their waiting areas that state that appointments are for one problem only.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, told The Times: “It is outrageous that patients are being told there are ‘rules’ around the number of health problems that can be discussed during a GP appointment.

“We hear so frequently from patients who struggle to even get a GP appointment that I’m confident most people would take such an opportunity to ask about a secondary or less urgent health concern.

“Most importantly, our concerns are that patients will not be given the opportunity, or may be put off, from asking for medical advice because of this rule — which is a very serious patient safety risk.” 

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