Well over a quarter of GP appointments are taking less than five minutes in some parts of the country, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed, raising fears that many patients are not being seen for long enough to properly assess them.
The Liberal Democrats said the figures showed a “stark postcode lottery” with people in some areas struggling for weeks to get an appointment only to be rushed through in a matter of minutes.
NHS figures show that across England as a whole, around one in five (22%) of the 16.6 million GP appointments in April lasted five minutes or less. Only half of appointments across the country lasted longer than 10 minutes.
However, in some areas the numbers of GP patients being rushed through rapid appointments was far higher.
Basildon and Brentwood was the worst in the country with almost 28% of patients being seen in five minutes or less. This was followed by Wirral (27.5%), Thurrock (27%) and North East Lincolnshire (27%). By contrast, in Stoke on Trent just 16% of patients were seen within five minutes, while 60% saw their GP for longer than ten minutes, more than anywhere else in the country.
The Royal College of General Practice has previously called for the standard ten-minute GP consultation to be brought to an end, and for face-to-face appointments to be at least 15 minutes by 2030. The latest figures show that less than a third or 31.4% of GP appointments in April last minutes 15 minutes or longer.
Previous research has also found that Britain has some of the shortest average GP appointments among similarly wealthy countries around the world.
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “These figures expose a stark postcode lottery as GP services are stretched to breaking point.
“The Conservatives promised to recruit more family doctors but they are nowhere to be seen.
“Even once people manage to get an appointment, too often they are rushed through because doctors have to fit so many patients in.
“Doctors need to have time to properly assess their patients, especially those with conditions that are complex or getting worse whilst waiting for hospital treatment as part of the NHS backlog.
“Instead patients are being treated like goods on a factory conveyor belt. It is completely unsustainable and the government needs to get a grip.”