Patients waiting more than two weeks for routine appointments, GPs warn

Vincent Wood

The average waiting time for routine appointments with a GP has reached almost 15 days, according to an annual poll of physicians – the first time the result of the survey has broken through the two-week barrier since its inception.

The poll, carried out yearly by GP publication Pulse, found that more than 30 per cent of practitioners had waiting times for routine appointments of more than two weeks.

Meanwhile 22 per cent of the 901 medical practitioners surveyed said waiting times stretched beyond three weeks, and 6 per cent said it took longer than four weeks for patients to be seen for appointments.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair at the British Medical Association, said the results highlighted “the reality of the capacity issues that many GP practices across the country are facing”.

He added: “GPs’ number one priority is treating their patients and they work incredibly hard to do so, often outside of their contracted hours in practices that are understaffed.

“What is clear however, is that despite the best efforts of practices, patient demand is continuing to grow and with it the rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary.”

A government spokesperson said the poll reflected just a small number of MPs.

However official data released by NHS Digital found that in October last year, 2.8 million people had not seen a doctor until at least 21 days after they had booked an appointment.

Four in 10 were able to book same day appointments over the period, while more than two thirds were seen within a week.

Waiting times were one of a range of issues acknowledged by Boris Johnson, who pledged to reduce waiting times in both GP surgeries and accident and emergency units in his first speech as prime minister.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, said: “After years of Tory cuts and falling GP numbers it’s shocking, but unsurprising, that patients are now waiting longer than two weeks on average to see a GP

“Whether it’s for surgery, in bursting A&Es, for cancer treatment or now in general practice, patients are facing unacceptably long waits.

“The truth is, as Boris Johnson’s senior adviser confirmed, the Tories simply don’t care about the NHS and can’t be trusted with it.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “This survey represents a small fraction of GPs, and the latest official NHS data shows 2 in 3 appointments happen within seven days of being booked, but we are determined to reduce GP waiting times further.”