10-minute GP appointments are too short, admits Hunt
TEN-miNuTE GP appointments are not long enough to meet patients’ needs, the Health Secretary admitted yesterday.
Jeremy Hunt said patients were getting sicker and older, meaning doctors needed up to 50 minutes to help them properly.
He called on GPs to cut the one in four appointments which are ‘avoidable’ so they can spend more time with patients who are truly in need.
He admitted family doctors were running on a ‘hamster wheel’ seeing 30 or 40 patients a day – and said they would have more ‘energy’ to properly do their jobs if they cut some out.
mr Hunt said: ‘The old model of tenminute appointments doesn’t really work for patients with multiple longterm conditions who may need 30, 40, 50 minutes to get to the bottom of all their needs.’
Addressing the Royal College of GPs’ annual conference in Liverpool, he also warned that traditional family doctors were at risk of dying out because so many GPs were leaving the NHS.
He said GPs who knew every patient and their families were the ‘best thing about the NHS’, but added it was becoming ‘much harder’ for doctors to deliver this ‘continuity of care’ because of staffing shortages, historic underfunding and Britain’s ageing and growing population.
mr Hunt said more GPs were needed – and announced plans to beef up training and recruitment schemes.
But he also told doctors to take some responsibility for dealing with the pressure, saying that every GP could save an hour a day if they simply reduced administration and filtered out the 26 per cent of avoidable appointments.
Research suggests lengthening GP appointments can have a significant impact on patient health. A study by Glasgow and Dundee universities found that extending GP appointments to 30 minutes would be more cost- effective than many prescription drugs.
mr Hunt said: ‘ Too many of the GPs that i meet are knackered – they are often feeling at the end of their tether.
‘They feel that they are on a hamster wheel of ten-minute appointments, 30 to 40 of them every day, unable to give the care they would like to.’
But mr Hunt said he could not turn the system around alone, adding: ‘There are things that i can do, that i want to do, that i have tried to do, in terms of capacity, in terms of funding, in terms of long-term solutions.
‘But there are also things that you can do in your individual practices that can make a huge amount of difference.’
Studies have shown if GP practices cut avoidable appointments, by sending patients to pharmacies or consulting online, doctors can save up to 60 minutes a day.
Yesterday Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, called for far less red-tape and guidelines, to enable doctors to spend longer with patients who need the care, and less time with minor cases.
She said a raft of guidelines and bureaucracy meant doc- tors spent so much time boxticking they did not ‘have time to care’.
Prof Stokes-Lampard told mr Hunt: ‘Trust us to be doctors so that we can treat our patients like human beings and tailor their treatment to their needs.’
mr Hunt pledged to increase the number of GPs by 5,000 by 2022 by recruiting from abroad and increasing medical degree places.
But he admitted: ‘The number of GPs who want to leave the profession is at the highest level it has been since 1988.
‘if you just look at the GPs who are 50 or over who want to leave the profession, that now equates to 7,000 GPs. We can’t afford to let that happen.’
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tors set a bad example. ‘We are still hugely trusted by our patients,’ he told its annual conference. ‘Patients really do notice what we do, we’re leaders in the community. It’s practising what we preach.’
From yesterday’s Mail