Hurried GP consultations 'a scandal', RCGP chair warns

Hurried consultations in general practice are 'a scandal that needs to be named' because they are undermining GPs' ability to deliver high quality care, the RCGP chair has warned.

Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Grainge Photography)

Writing in a new weekly column, Professor Martin Marshall hit out at short GP consultations, saying that they were making it hard for doctors to understand the needs of their patients.

Hurried consultations, he added, were ‘fine for no one’ as he labelled doctors' lack of time with patients ‘the greatest impediment’ to modern general practice.

His warning follows GPonline analysis of NHS Digital figures which showed that the amount of GP time available per patient in England has dropped by almost 10% over the past four years - it now stands at 55.2 minutes per patient per year.

GP consultations

Professor Marshall argued that rushed appointments were preventing GPs from building trusting relationships with patients - leading to the prescription of ‘unnecessary’ antibiotics and antidepressants.

‘GP consultations in the UK are among the shortest in Europe,' he wrote. 'In an average 9.2 minutes patients present just under three separate problems. Not so much time for pleasantries. Not much time for proactive care. Not much time to really understand what patients are seeking from their consultation.

‘How do you put a price on building the kind of trusting relationship which results in fewer unnecessary antibiotics or antidepressants, fewer investigations and fewer specialist referrals? Hurried consultations are a scandal that needs to be named.'

In an interview with GPonline in September, Professor Marshall previously called for GPs to be given the freedom they needed to be able to offer high quality care to their patients, which included longer consultations.

He said this could be achieved by reducing the number of consultations GPs delivered each day, highlighting increased time with patients would increase GP job satisfaction and retention.

Meanwhile, former RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said in May it was 'abundantly clear’ that the standard 10-minute appointment was unfit for purpose. The RCGP instead recommended that appointments of at least 15 minutes were made the norm by 2030.

Professor Martin has previously said the college remained committed to securing longer consultations to improve patient outcomes.

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