GP 10-minute appointment rule axed

GP consultation There will no longer be a minimum length for GP consultations

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GPs in England will no longer have to offer appointments lasting at least 10 minutes under changes agreed with the government.

It is one of a number of requirements being removed in the latest round of contract negotiations between the government and doctors' leaders.

NHS England says consultations last on average for around 12 minutes.

It added this change should mean GPs have greater flexibility over how they organise their appointments,

Other changes which have been agreed, and which will come in next April, include enhanced care for the million frailest patients, and named GPs for the four million over-75s,

'Keen to chat'

The removal of the 10 minute minimum slot for booked appointments is one of the changes being made to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), which accounts for a significant proportion of the funding practices receive,

Start Quote

GPs should have the flexibility to decide how long an appointment needs to be”

End Quote NHS England spokeswoman

Dr Dean Marshall, who is part of the British Medical Association's GP negotiating team, told the BBC: "The 10-minute appointment just isn't appropriate any more.

"Some patients just need a quick five minutes with us while other patients need much longer because of the complex nature of their health problems."

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: "GPs are professionals who know what is best for their patients.

"GP appointments are currently about 12 minutes long on average.

"GPs should have the flexibility to decide how long an appointment needs to be and how many patients they can see in one day, using their clinical judgement, on a case-by-case basis, based on the needs of their patients."

QOF is, in effect, a points based system. There are a wide range of targets covered in QOF, each of which has a number of points attached. Those points are linked to funding, so the more a practice achieves, the more funding it gets.

However, there have been concerns, accepted by government in these negotiations, about the number of "boxes" QOF required GPs to "tick".

Around a quarter of QOF points have been removed and the funding tied to those - around £290m - has been transferred to the main practice funding pot.

Other changes agreed will also remove the requirement for GPs to ask patients with diabetes, at every annual check up, whether or not they experience erectile dysfunction.

There will also no longer be a requirement for patients with high blood pressure to go through a detailed, but often irrelevant questionnaire about their activity levels.

A further 100 points worth £162m will be removed from the QOF "pot" to fund measures aimed at ensuring patients are not inappropriately admitted to hospital.

Another change agreed in the negotiation is that from April 2014, all practices will have to offer and promote online appointment booking and repeat prescription requests.

Many practices already have the software with the capacity, in theory, to do this.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    No government has ever tried to reduce demand and have continually bigged up the service.
    Perhaps if GPs were paid for what they do ie per consultation you would see three times the number of available consultations. Only problem would be that it would bankrupt the NHS fairly quickly.
    Demand must be reduced by stopping time-wasters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I'm more concerned with being able to be seen, by a full-time GP who knows my medical history, who at least attempts to operate around my life commitments.

    I haven't experienced this since I lived in a small village as a child.

    I can't get an appointment inside a week at my current Surgery, the Receptionists do nothing to faciltate my comimitments, and I see a new face every time I go in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I wonder how the target some years ago of seeing patients in a certain time has influenced doctors behaviour. They seem to excell in finding ways to meet targets and performance measures that pay out. I experience being told no appointments available today - phone back tomorrow at 8am . Then by the time you get through all gone - but that will not be logged - and the target will appear to be met.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    57. Bob

    The answer is in the title, A & E, stands for accident and emergency, so if you are not there for either of those reasons it is people like you who are choking up the system.
    Same with GPs, there are too many people taking up their time with trivial ailments, thus the appointment book gets clogged and those needing the doctors have to wait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The system of scheduling appointments is the basic problem, along with targets that practices need to meet.
    Open the GP surgerys for morning and afternoon sessions, and have people turn up to wait for an appointment in that session - if they cannot be bothered to wait, then they cannot have been that ill.
    This system was in place at a surgery I went to when I was younger, and the system worked.


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