Senior GP backs calls to scrap bookable GP appointments

GP practices should not be forced to offer bookable appointments, a retired senior GP has claimed.

Dr Cornell Fleming: scrap appointments system (Photo: Dan Atkin)

The comments come after the GPC last month strongly rejected calls from a speaker at a Nuffield Trust event for GP appointments systems to be scrapped.

Dr Cornell Fleming, an executive member of the Family Doctor Association, told GP that the GPC was ‘plain wrong’ to claim general practice could not serve patients well without bookable appointments.

‘I used to run a single-handed surgery with 3,000 patients and we had no appointment system until it became compulsory about 10 years ago,’ he said.

Sick by appointment

‘We thought it was horrible – how do you get sick by appointment? I’ve never understood that.

‘People came in during the time the surgery was open, gave their name and sat down. They knew they may have to wait 30 minutes, but we never ended up with long queues.’

Dr Fleming said the practice offered ‘a handful’ of patients who needed longer, more complex appointments the chance to come in after normal surgery hours.

Unnecessary targets

The system meant access targets were unnecessary and saved time because the practice avoided having patients who had booked ahead coming in ‘when they had got better’, Dr Fleming said.

He said his practice had surveyed patients and found 95% didn’t want a bookable appointment system.

The speaker at the Nuffield Trust event last month – who spoke under the Chatham House Rule and cannot be named – said: ‘I like the idea that we should abolish appointment systems altogether in general practice. It’s a huge area of contention, everybody hates it. Why don’t we do what we do in A&E?’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey argued that a walk-in system would not suit some patients with long-term conditions, could lead to long waits and overwhelm GPs.

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