‘Give GPs waiting list targets like hospitals’ say experts

Figures show one in 25 patients waits more than a month for a GP appointment.

The NHS England data also revealed three in 20 meetings last under five minutes – and one in four takes place over the phone or via video call.

A health service adviser who works with GP practices and asked not to be named suggested patients should be given a time frame for seeing a family doctor, just like hospital treatment.

There are wait-time rules for patients receiving hospital – or secondary care – treatment. Under the NHS constitution, they have a right to begin treatment within 18 weeks of a referral.

Those suspected of having cancer must have a confirmed diagnosis and start treatment within 62 days of a family doctor’s assessment. However GP patients are not safeguarded by such rules.

The adviser said: “GPs would benefit from having targets, so there are limits on the time people should wait to be assessed. The Netherlands spends the same amount on healthcare as we do but the most a patient would wait is two days and most are seen
in a day.

“GPs here work very hard and do lots of clinics. The service is not working well and needs radical reform.”

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University and an urgent care GP, said delays can be deadly.

“These figures highlight the problem patients have,” he said. “It is not acceptable to wait four weeks to see a GP for a problem which could be life-threatening. The delivery of our healthcare needs major surgery.”

Separate data shows the NHS is spending around £250million a year for claims over delayed or missed diagnoses.

The statistics, gathered by medical negligence solicitors Minton Morrill, show there were 8,718 payouts between 2017 and 2021, totalling £1.14billion.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are making it easier for patients to see their GP. In September there were 135,000 more appointments per working day compared to a year ago. We are investing £240million to support practices to embrace the latest technology to help beat the 8am rush. We have delivered more than 2,000 extra doctors and 31,000 extra staff.”

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