GPs' consultations lasting 40% longer

GP consultations are 40 per cent longer and working weeks slightly lengthier than 15 years ago, according to research carried out by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care.

The 2006/7 General Practice Workload Survey, published this week, found that on average GPs who opted out of out-of- hours under the GMS contract worked for 36.3 hours in the practice per week.

In 1992/93, when the workload survey was last conducted, the average working week, excluding out-of-hours work was 35.9 hours.

Practices also saw nearly a third more patients in 2006/7 than in 1992/3.

The Information Centre study, based on data collected from 329 practices across the UK, pours cold water on media claims that the new GMS contract gave GPs large pay rises for working far fewer hours.

It follows the publication of the DoH access survey, which revealed that only 4 per cent of patients want evening surgeries and 7 per cent weekend opening.

Far from being short changed, new figures show that patients spend 40 per cent more time with their GP than they did in the early 1990s.

Average consultation times have risen sharply from 8.4 minutes in 1992/93 to 11.7 minutes in 2006/07.

The number of patients seen by practice nurses increased from one in five to one in three, with their consultations taking an average 15.5 minutes.

Commenting on the findings, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'The quality and complexity of GP care has altered out of all recognition and GPs are much more closely scrutinised to ensure that this quality is maintained.

'Intensity has rocketed. Patient care that routinely took place in a hospital setting is now done in general practice.'

During working hours GP practices also saw 32 per cent more patients (220.1 million to 289.8 million), while unnecessary home visits have halved thanks to better access to practice staff over the telephone.

A second report 'Trends in Consultation Rates in General Practice', also published by the Information Centre this week, found that the average annual number of visits to GPs per person has increased from 3.9 to 5.3 since 1995.

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