BMA responds to RCGP’s 15-minute GP appointment proposal

Image of a doctor in a white coat sat at their desk, listening to the chest of a male patient to indicate BMA agrees new GP contract package for 2020-21

The Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) has produced its ‘Fit for the Future’ report, which proposes 15-minute GP appointments as standard, as opposed to the current 10-minute appointment time limit.

In response to the proposal, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said that although no GP wants to rush the time that they are able to spend with their patients, the heavy workload means that they are forced to: “As more and more patients live with a number of complex conditions, GPs are increasingly concerned that short consultations with their patients are rarely conducive with providing the high level of care that people expect and deserve. This unreasonable time pressure also has a major impact on the mental wellbeing of doctors.

“No GP wants to rush their time with patients, squeezing it into a 10-minute window when it needs far longer, but they are forced to do so by the sheer volume of workload they are faced with. While it is for practices to determine how long their appointments should be, the BMA wants them to have the necessary resources and workforce capacity to be able to dedicate appropriate time to each patient and set their own safe workload limits.

Dr Vautrey went on to say that this “important piece of work” from colleagues at the RCGP mirrors much of what the BMA has been saying for some time about the direction of general practice and what is needed to ensure its future. “Most positively it also highlights areas that we’re already making progress on,” he said.

“The introduction of primary care networks – negotiated between ourselves and NHS England as part of this year’s contract agreement – will hopefully mean that practices can support each other in managing workload, and ensuring more patients get timely, appropriate access to the right professional. With the addition of an extra 20,000 practice-based staff over the next five years, there is the potential for GPs to dedicate more time to those patients who require their expertise most.

He added that other factors needed to be taken into account to create a sustainable future for GP practices: “As the College points out, the future of general practice, and its ability to innovate and meet the needs of future generations, requires a significant and sustained boost in funding and GP numbers, and improvements in areas such as training, IT infrastructure and practice premises, all of which are fundamental in determining the quality of care practices can provide to their patients.”