GPs spending too long with most of their patients

We are doomed to more spin than substance in the next four weeks, but somehow I expected better from the BMA.  Their poll on GP workload is quite interesting if you read the original.  Let me quote:   “Most GPs describe their workload as being generally manageable, but too busy at times (53%)”.  Well, hello every worker in the known world.  Didn’t see that in the press did you?

8% of respondents agreed with the statement “The 10 minute consultation is sufficient for most routine appointments”.

The BMA press release has “Only around one in ten GPs (8%) feel that the standard ten minute consultation is adequate.”

Pulse ups it to “More than 90% of GPs think 10-minute consultations are inadequate”

The chorus builds through false dichotomies between access or continuity, longer waits or longer consultations, into the doom, gloom crescendo and final chord of “76% say increased core funding is the answer”.

This has about as much value as the famous poll involving turkeys and Christmas.

Dear doctors, if you want evidence based policy, you must do better.

It’s absurd to say a GP needs the same time to look at a spot on my nose, as to work through a complex set of chronic or mental health conditions.  The answer is not any specific number of minutes, it is whatever is appropriate.

Our database of over 7 million consultations, based on record open and close times extracted from clinical systems, shows a very different picture.  Look at “How long should a consultation take?”

GPs can safely deal with 60% of patients in a telephone call, taking around 5 minutes.  In a system giving them complete freedom on how long to spend with each patient, GPs are brilliant.  Some need 20 or even 30 minutes, and while most need less than 10, the average changes little.

I would not be in the 8% in the BMA poll.  It’s the wrong question.

Better questions are, how can we design a system to allow GPs the flexibility to do the right thing every time, and the capacity to respond to predictable demand efficiently and sustainably?

They are not survey questions.

Harry Longman
Founder, Chief Executive
GP Access Ltd

PS Good news doesn’t sell, particularly in an election.  So I was amazed to see that the Dover Chart Collection was the most popular link on the blog for months.  It shows how in 50 practices the waiting time to see a GP has fallen off a cliff.

PPS Fascinating early results with askmyGP:  30% of demand has shifted online in just 3 weeks.  But with 24/7 access available, 91% of demand is still in hours.  Do drop me a line for the full report.

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