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Posted on 9th February 2017

Doctors warn that ten-minute appointments are dangerous

Senior doctors have warned that short GP appointments are failing patients as local surgeries take on more from hospitals.

Last year a study found that Britain had the shortest GP appointments in the developed world.

Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, has said that local health chiefs needs to find ways of treating more elderly people and those with long-term conditions at GP surgeries, to cut down on hospital admissions. 

He argues that this approach will improve care and save money.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, told the BBC: “We have the shortest consultations in Europe. It is a crazy situation.”

A survey by the think tanks the Commonwealth Fund and Health Foundation found that the average appointment lasted ten minutes in Britain, compared with 20 minutes in Sweden, France, Norway and Switzerland. 

Dr Stokes-Lampard continued: “We will need to provide more complex care. That takes time — longer than the ten minutes we get now. I really worry what will happen.

“The typical patient has a range of multiple conditions. They can have diabetes and heart disease and some moderate depression. Patients can be on ten medicines. You can’t possibly provide good care in ten minutes to these sort of patients. If we had longer, you could do so much more to reduce hospital admissions and repeat attendances. 

A poll by Ipsos Mori for the BBC of 1,033 people found widespread support for sanctions against people who abuse the GP system. However, 51 per cent opposed the idea of being able to pay extra for a guaranteed appointment within 24 hours. One in five was willing to pay more than £10.

Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “We spend less than other European countries. We have fewer doctors than other European nations. We have one third of the hospital beds per head compared to Germany for example, GPs spend less time per patient than any other European nations. We need to be addressing these issues as a priority.”

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