GP consultations in Britain are among the shortest in Europe

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

GP consultations in Britain are among the shortest in Europe and it will take 70 years before the NHS achieves 15 minute appointments, a study published today shows, The Telegraph reports.

Patients in Lithuania, Belgium and Portugal all enjoy longer visits to their doctors than Britons who on average are seen for just 9 minutes and 22 seconds.

British patients also see their family doctor for less time than patients in the USA, Sweden, Canada, Spain and Japan.

Available data shows the average appointment in the UK is increasing by just 4.2 seconds a year, according to the study by Cambridge University, which was published in BMJ Open.

The British Medical Association has previously called for 15 minute appointments, claiming it is impossible to make a thorough diagnosis in less time. But if current trends continue, that target will not be reached until 2086.

The analysis looked at 67 countries across the world for which appointment data was available and found that 28 had longer consultations than Britain.

The average appointment varied from just 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden.

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

Dr Greg Irving, of the Primary Care Unit at Cambridge, said short consultations ‘adversely affect patient care’ and add to the stress and workload of doctors.

“A lack of time in the consultation is a key constraint to delivering expert generalist care,” he added.

Commenting on the study, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said it proved appointment times in Britain were among the worst in the world.

“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 said.

“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.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association‘s GP committee, added: “GPs are working harder than ever before to deliver more appointments to patients and find new ways of providing care more efficiently.

“However, we have long argued that the standard 10-minute consultation is often inadequate for many patients, especially for the increasing number of older people with complex and multiple conditions.

“It’s important that those individuals who need more time with their GP can get it and this relies on practices having the necessary resources and staff to deliver personalised care for each patient.

“Investing in general practice in this way will pay dividends for the wider NHS and also relieve some of the current pressures that many GP practices are having to cope with.”

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