10-minute GP ap­point­ments are too short, ad­mits Hunt

Daily Mail - - News - By Ben Spencer Med­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent b.spencer@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

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

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