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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Patients 'get more time with GP'
GP writing a prescription
Individual consultation time has increased
GPs in England spend almost 40% longer on each patient consultation than they did in 1992/93, research shows.

Data released by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care show the average consultation time in 2006/07 was 11.7 minutes, up from 8.4 minutes.

The number of consultations carried out by GP practices has risen - but the number of home visits has dropped.

Doctors are working roughly the same surgery hours as they did when the last survey was carried out in 1992/93.

However, most are not working outside "normal" hours as they once did. In 1992/93 the average GP worked around seven hours a week outside surgery hours.

What has changed is the way we work. Intensity has rocketed
Dr Laurence Buckman
British Medical Association

A new contract was introduced for GPs in 2004.

The deal allowed them to opt out of evening and weekend work, in return for around a 6,000 a year drop in pay.

But performance-related components to the contract have led to their pay rising by over a fifth in the first year of the contract, with average GP pay now above the 100,000 barrier.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said it was difficult to draw meaningful comparisons as there had been significant changes to the GP contract since 1992/93.

But he said: "What has changed is the way we work. Intensity has rocketed.

Bigger role for nurses

"The quality and complexity of GP care has altered out of all recognition from the consultations of 14 years ago and GPs are much more closely scrutinised to ensure that this quality is maintained.


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"As a result, patients are looked after better and nearer their own homes.

"The way that GPs work now, with their teams, is better for patients, better for the NHS, but it means that GPs are working under much greater pressure, dealing with increasingly complex cases and the other members of the practice team see the more straightforward problems."

The latest data estimates that the number of consultations at family practices across England rose from 220.1 million in 1995 to 289.8 million in 2006.

However, a higher proportion of consultations are now undertaken by nurses. In 1995 it was one in five, now it is one in three.

The average person now attends their GP practice 5.3 times a year, compared to 3.9 consultations in 1995.

The most regular visitors are people aged 85 to 89, who go to their practice an average of 12.6 times a year.

Trust 'eroded'

While the number of consultations which occur in the surgery has remained constant, the number of telephone consultations trebled from 3% to 10%.

However, the number of home visits has dropped from 9% of the total to 3%.

Full-time GP partners work on average 44.4 hours per week - similar to the most comparable figure from 1992/93.

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said the GP service was getting worse despite the "inflated salary" of family doctors.

"The trust and relationship is very quickly being eroded. They are not delivering patient-friendly service. They are working less but for a lot more money."

Q&A: GPs' pay
19 Jan 07 |  Health
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