Survey reveals waiting times for GP appointments have exceeded two weeks for first time

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13th August 2019 13:12 - Health

Survey reveals waiting times for GP appointments have exceeded two weeks for first time: A survey asking GPs how long their average wait times are for non-urgent appointments has found patients are waiting more than two weeks to be seen (14.8 days.) This is the first time that waiting times have exceeded a fortnight, up from 13.9 days last year, and 12.8 days in both 2016 and 2017.

The nationwide poll by Pulse questioned 901 GPs and found that 31% reported average waiting times of 2-3 weeks, while 26.9% said the average wait was more like 1-2 weeks. For 15.7% of GPs polled the delay was reported to be 3-4 weeks, with 4.9% having to wait even longer to see their doctor - a delay of 4-5 weeks. Just a fifth (19.9%) were seen within a week of making the appointment, while a small number (1.2%), reported waiting times of more than five weeks.

The GPs polled also gave details about the situation within their own practices, revealing issues with lack of capacity and concerns that the situation may even be worse than figures show. One GP said that waiting times at his surgery may underestimated because they do not "release appointments in an open-ended manner" meaning it is, "impossible to know the 'hidden' waiting list."

Another GP who reported waiting lists of 4-5 weeks pointed to the number of housing developments the surgery was responsible for and increasing patient demand set against "dreadful government funding”. Another fed back that they had implemented a new system of booking which has seen waiting times fall to just a week.

"We have just changed our appointment system to predominantly book on the day as we were running at 4-5 weeks but noted people booking 3-4 appointments "just in case"," he said. "Our maximum booking slot time is now seven days, although GPs can book up to 4 weeks in advance for specific follow up needs."

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: 'When patients need to see a GP or member of the practice team urgently, we are working incredibly hard to ensure they can get access – and this is reflected in the most recent NHS figures.”

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