GPs call for end of the 10-minute consultation amid warnings slots among shortest in western world

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By Laura Donnelly

GPs are calling for an end to the 10-minute consultation, amid warnings that the UK has some of the shortest appointments in the western world.

The Royal College of GPs said the current system was “unfit for purpose” with patients too often attempting to explain multiple health problems against the clock.

Its report says that by 2030, the NHS should move to appointments of at least 15 minutes, with longer for those in need.

Research shows the average length of slots in the UK is just over nine minutes, compared with 20 minutes in Norway, and almost 23 minutes in Sweden.

The RCGP called for a fundamental overhaul of the system, with more use of other staff – such as pharmacists and physiotherapists – to carry out duties now performed by family doctors.

Such moves would free up doctors to have longer slots for those who needed them, their report suggests.

Studies show that the number of patients with multiple chronic conditions is rising by eight per cent a year, now accounting for around half of all GP appointments.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is abundantly clear that the standard 10-minute appointment is unfit for purpose.

“It’s increasingly rare for a patient to present with a just single health condition, and we cannot deal with this adequately in 10 minutes.”

Research suggests that the average appointment involves discussion of 2.5 health problems.

She said: “GPs want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients, considering all the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health.

“But this depends on us having more time to spend with patients, and the resources and people to allow us to do this”.

Health officials are due to publish a workforce plan within weeks, setting out how to deal with shortages of doctors and nurses.

Ministers have repeatedly pledged to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020, but the target is set to be missed.

Prof Stokes-Lampard said: “GP workload is soaring, GP numbers are falling, and patients are already waiting too long to secure an appointment as a result.”

The report says that moving to 15 minutes appointment will need continued investment in general practice, receiving at least 11 per cent of the NHS budget, as well as a major expansion in the workforce.

Currently, it receives around 9.5 per cent of the NHS budget.

The report also suggests GP specialty training may need to be longer to properly prepare trainees to deal with all the conditions they may encounter.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS Long Term Plan means an extra £4.5 billion is being invested in primary and community care, alongside the recruitment of 20,000 physios, therapists and other health experts to offer patient more access to specialist care in GP teams, building on success in the last year alone which has seen GPs across the country free up an extra half a million hours of time for patients.”

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