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Posted on 20th February 2017

Doctors cutting urgent appointments to 5 minutes to meet with demand

With some GPs seeing a demand of more than 100 patients a day, many are having to cut urgent appointment down to five minutes to cope with demand.

The 10-minute requirement for appointments was dropped by the government in April 2014, to allow GPs more control.

Surgeries across the country are not offering five-minute slots for urgent appointments, and telephone consultations, to try and see as many patients as possible.

One doctor in Lincolnshire said that with shorter appointments for urgent cases and telephone consultations, he could deal with between 50 and 120 patients a day.

“It’s a ridiculous amount,” he said. “The demand has gone through the roof.”

Doctors have warned that such short appointments are inadequate and dangerous.

Last month The Times released that because of the GP shortage in the NHS, people are being told that their ten-minute appointment is strictly “one illness only” and that many surgeries had banned the booking of double appointments for those who needed to discuss several illnesses. 

The Patients Association said that the one illness policy was “outrageous”.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA general practitioners committee, told The Sunday Times: “Five minutes is woefully too short. We know that 9 out of 10 GPs say they cannot manage in 10-minute appointments, let alone five. They are rushing through consultations not out of choice, but out of necessity.”

The Health Foundation charity has suggested that the amount of time GPs spend with patients in the UK is among the lowest in the developed world. 

Their research shows that 92 per cent of consultations in the UK are under 15 minutes, compared with 27% in the 11 other countries they looked at. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “If five minutes is enough — and in some cases it might be, for example if a patient has a single, simple health condition — then that’s great but the reality of the situation is that patients increasingly need more time with their GP, not less.”

“GPs want to spend more time with our patients with complex needs. We want the opportunity to have a good discussion with our patients, properly allowing us to take into account all the physical, psychological and social factors affecting a patient’s health. This can’t be done in 10 minutes, let alone five,” she continued.

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