GP appointments rise by 40 million

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Expert warns that general practice suffering from ‘chronic under-funding”

The British Medical Association is urging the government to act, after they have revealed that patients are having to wait up to two weeks for an appointment.

With longer delays “becoming the norm” and one in 10 patients unable to be seen by a doctor, BMA GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul emphasises the increasing demand for GP services, with a rise of 40 million appointments scheduled since 2008, making a total of 340 million consultations altogether.

As well as a bigger demand for general practice, the BMA expert has also highlighted that this boom has come at a time when funding in this sector has dropped – initially GP’s enjoyed 10.7% of NHS spending back in 2005/6 yet this has decreased to only 8.4% by 2011/12.

General practice

Dr Nagpaul told BBC News “Demand is outstripping supply. The patients we are seeing have more complex conditions and yet we still only have 10 minutes for each consultation – that is woefully inadequate. General practice is chronically under-funded and that is beginning to have an impact on the patient experience.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said “We hear daily from patients that they can’t get appointments. It’s even worse for those who want a named doctor for continuity of care. They are having to wait two or three weeks. It is becoming a real issue. We need more investment in general practice, but I think we also need greater flexibility from doctors – it can no longer be a nine to five service.”

The Department of Health have combated these accusations by saying they are already being dealt with via the £50 million Challenge Fund, with 1,100 practices signing up to the initiative. The scheme aims to see practices extend their opening hours, and also make use of technology such as email and skype to reach patients when it is convenient to them.