When you need a longer GP appointment

A new study from Cambridge University has revealed that British patients are low down in the league when it comes to time spent with their GP – we have the second shortest consultation time in Western Europe.

NHS GP appointments less than 10 minutes

The research, which was published in the BMJ Open, found that the average doctor’s appointment in the UK clocks in at just under 10 minutes.

In Sweden, patients enjoy 22.5 minutes of their doctor’s time, in Bulgaria, it’s 21 minutes and Norwegian patients gets 20 minutes to chat about their ailments.

Those in Lithuania, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg, Iceland, Cyprus and Peru currently enjoy 15 minute consultations, a third longer than in the UK.

In Western Europe, only the Germans have less time with their GPs, with 7.7 minutes per appointment. At the bottom of the league is Bangladesh, who get an average of 48 seconds.

So, do shorter appointments have an impact on patients’ wellbeing?  

Dr Greg Irving, of the Primary Care Unit at Cambridge commented on the findings. He said: “Short consultations adversely affect patient care. A lack of time in the consultation is a key constraint to delivering expert generalist care.”

The British Medical Association recommends that GP appointments should be at least 15 minutes long. It’s estimated that this target will not be reached until 2086.

Commenting on the study, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said:

“The time GPs have to spend with our patients is precious, and the more time we are able to spend with them, the better patient-centred care we are able to provide - so it's concerning to see that every UK study included in this research shows that we are spending less than 10 minutes on average with our patients during their consultation.

She added: "Increasingly, patients are living with multiple, long-term chronic conditions, both physical and psychological - and at the same time GPs are being asked to do more checks, ask more questions and give more advice as standard during consultations.

“The standard 10-minute appointment is simply inadequate to deal with this.”

Private GP service

Many patients who were previously NHS patients are voting with their feet, and looking for private doctors.

Budget private doctors will often offer not much more than this, but for many GPs working in the private sector, a half an hour appointment will truly allow them to get to the heart of the matter.

Dr Debbie Street, a GP in Harley Street who has also worked within the NHS, gave her views: ‘I love the fact that I have half an hour to spend with my patients. When I see a them, I know I can give a really good service.’ This can then be followed up with more cost-effective 15 minute appointments.

Her colleague Dr Amarjit Raindi agreed with her and said: “It’s such a pleasure from a professional point of view to really have time to stop and listen to our patients. Preventative medicine is a subject very close to my heart. Having time to concentrate on patients’ optimum wellness is a really positive element to working privately.”

Naturally, fast referrals is another advantage to a private GP service.

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