GPs ‘don’t get enough time with patients’

DOCTORS in the East of England are given half the time needed to assess patients properly, new research has claimed.

Overstretched GPs say their ability to make assessments is compromised by insufficient time with patients.

A survey of 200 GPs in the region found that 53% say they have less time to see patients than five years ago, with 38% admitting it affects their ability to accurately diagnose.

According to annual research by Aviva UK Health, only 12% of GPs feel a lack of time with a patient does not affect their ability. Research consultant Dr Hugh Laing said the study showed GPs were overstretched and this could affect the quality of support they are able to offer their patients.

While current practice is to schedule appointments for 10 minutes each, more than nine in 10 GPs said up to 20 minutes would be ideal to see each patient, reflecting the feeling among 63% of consumers who thought NHS appointments were always rushed.

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Dr Janet Massey, secretary of the British Medical Association for Suffolk, said the way patients were referred had changed since the arrival of the Choose and Book service in 2004. It allows patients to choose, with their GP, a provider, date and time for their first outpatient appointment.

Dr Massey said: “The problem is that referrals are best done at the time a GP is with a patient – 15 minutes is about right, but it depends on the patient. Some have several things to discuss with their GP.

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“Choose and Book is a very time consuming procedure and can leave other patients waiting.

“Our job is to make a diagnosis if needed or otherwise support the patient and advise them accordingly. It is important for GPs to get to know their patients and they are required to write so much more now for medical records. Consultation is such an important part of what we do.

“The GPs questioned have been very honest in the responses and I’m sure it will encourage debate as patients’ expectations rise.”

The research also shows the internet playing an increasingly important role for GPs, with 87% of those questioned claiming to access web searches daily and 87% admitting to using online resources as an aid to diagnosis.

The BMA is meanwhile carrying out its own study into health care provision and access. Entitled Striking a Balance: What matters most in general practice? the study consults patients on evolving practice procedures and is accessible online.

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