Doctors say longer appointments would allow them to tackle more issues

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gpDoctors say making appointments longer would allow them to tackle more issues [FILE PIC] (Image: Westend61/Getty Images)

They said the traditional 10-minute slots are "unfit for purpose" and should be scrapped to ease pressure on overstretched surgeries. Medics have demanded an overhaul of the "crumbling" general practice system after it emerged Britons spend significantly less time discussing health issues compared to other developed countries. Patients in Bulgaria, Russia, Peru, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland all have more time with their doctors than those in the UK, who spend an average of nine minutes at an appointment, a study revealed.

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We want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is abundantly clear the standard appointment is unfit for purpose. It's increasingly rare for a patient to present with a single health condition and we cannot deal with this adequately in 10 minutes.

"We 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.

"NHS bodies across the UK do not stipulate how long GP appointments should be, but GP workload is soaring, GP numbers are falling, and patients are already waiting too long to secure an appointment as a result."

The Royal College wants all face-to-face consultations to be at least 15 minutes, or longer for those who need it, by 2030.

The call comes after a British Medical Journal study analysing 28 million GP consultations in 67 counties revealed more than a third of doctors in the UK were dissatisfied with the amount of time their patients had. Surgeries are struggling to cope with increasing workloads as there are too few doctors to meet demand.

In just a decade, the number of people with a single chronic condition has increased by four per cent, and with multiple chronic conditions by eight per cent.

Patients with long-term conditions now account for around half of all GP appointments.

Doctors say making appointments longer would allow them to tackle more issues in one consultation, avoiding the need for follow-up appointments, often with a different GP.

On average, patients see a doctor six or seven times a year. Experts say longer consultations would allow issues to be resolved more quickly and slash the number of times a patient has to come back.

Doctors are complaining of burnout and stress, saying general practice has become a dumping ground for many non-medical issues. The study found at least 10 per cent of consultations involve no direct medical problems, with housing issues and the issuing of medical certificates among the reasons for a visit.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association GP committee, said: "As more and more patients live with a number of complex conditions, GPs are increasingly concerned that short consultations with their patients are rarely conducive to providing the high level of care that people expect and deserve.

"This unreasonable time pressure also has a major impact on the mental wellbeing of doctors. No GP wants to rush their time with patients, squeezing it into a 10-minute window when it needs far longer, but they are forced to do so by the sheer volume of workload they are faced with."

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Dr Rebecca Rosen, of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, said: "Patients with complex conditions will certainly welcome more time to discuss problems with their GP.

"But as much as we would all want longer appointments, the reality is that with the current significant shortage of family doctors, it will mean fewer GP slots overall.

"And an appointment of that length isn't needed for minor problems like earache which can be treated in a much shorter period of time."

Dr Ian Campbell, a family GP in Nottingham for more than 30 years, said: "The aspirations of the RCGP are ambitious and founded on what is clearly needed: more time, more resources and more GPs and

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