Parties should ‘commit to cut GP waits’ – top family doctor

The next government should commit to cutting long-waits for patients who need to see their GP, the nation’s top family doctor said as she called for an end to the “untenable and totally unacceptable” waits that some patients face.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors feel as “worried and frustrated” as patients when it is “impossible to get an appointment when needed”.

The Royal College of GPs said that family doctors are providing more appointments than ever, with fewer doctors.

But despite delivering more appointments, the College warned that “significant numbers” of patients are still waiting more than a month for an appointment.

It said that for many, these will be for regular check ups but for others the long waits will be a “source of real worry and concern”.

Professor Hawthorne said: “Everyone should be able to see a GP when they need to but too many patients are facing untenable and totally unacceptable waits and it’s our hard-pressed GPs and their teams who are taking the blame.

“GPs are working harder than ever but general practice is at breaking point.

“GPs are as worried and frustrated as their patients when it becomes impossible to get an appointment when needed.

“With General Election campaigning under way, all political parties need to be prioritising real investment in general practice to fix this crisis.”

She added: “Neither GPs nor patients want to see long waiting times for care. Sometimes it is helpful and appropriate to book in advance, but we know how frustrating it is when patients want to see their GP and can’t get the appointment they need.

“Without immediate action, the future of general practice is at risk. For whoever forms the next government this must be a ‘day one’ issue. The voting public wants to know what the winning party is going to do to ensure they can access safe, timely appropriate care from their local practice.

“We don’t need gimmicky, unrealistic targets that might sound good on a paper and might win votes but will never work without enough GPs to deliver them. We need significant investment and further efforts to increase the GP workforce, especially in encouraging the brilliant GPs we already have, to remain in the profession or this situation will only get worse.”

It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) set out its own call for the next government to make health its “top priority” though restoring the pay of doctors, delivering more training and jobs for the next generation of doctors, funding services needed for the future and prioritising preventative care.

The union has also called for the expansion of medical associate roles to be halted.

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA chairman of council, said: “We have an understaffed, under-resourced and under-performing health service, an exhausted and underpaid workforce and an increasingly unwell population.

“The next government risks the collapse of free-at-the-point-of-need healthcare if it fails to address these issues and reverse the damage caused by years of austerity politics.

“All parties must make the health of the country, and health services, their top priority so that doctors and healthcare staff can do their jobs safely and properly.”