Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Long-term ill need 'more time with their GP'

A woman in consultation with her GP
The ageing population means people have more complex health needs

GPs want longer appointments to treat patients with long-term, complex conditions, says the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Doctors would like the average consultation time between a patient and GP to be increased from 10 to 15 minutes.

People with minor ailments should be offered help via telephone or internet surgeries.

The Department of Health says GPs decide locally on consultation times.

The Royal College of General Practitioners represents over 38,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients.

We have telephone surgeries running every morning in my practice. Patients like them
Steve Field, chairman, Royal College of GPs

Their manifesto outlines some recommendations for the future of high quality care for patients, for whichever party is elected following this year's general election.

Reduced funding

The GPs' manifesto says: "The ageing population means that more patients will have long-term and increasingly complex conditions. They will need more time with their GP to discuss their care and treatment options."

Steve Field is the chairman of the RCGP and a GP in central Birmingham. He says patients with more minor health issues should be catered for by their doctor in a different way.

"We have telephone surgeries running every morning in my practice and we're about to introduce afternoon consultations on the telephone too. Patients like them."

He thinks GPs should consider extending their services to include email and video consultations as well.

He said: "We want to work with patients to give them more responsibility for their health care, but not prevent them from coming to the surgery if they are worried."

Visits of convenience

The "Self-Care Campaign" said recently that common ailments account for nearly one fifth of GPs' workload.

The campaign, funded by drugs companies selling over-the-counters medicines, gained the support of doctors, nurses and health charities.

The report says that many people with minor ailments go to their doctor out of convenience rather than need, at a cost of nearly £2bn a year to the health service.

Dr Laurence Buckman is chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs Committee. He says all GPs would like to spend longer with their patients.

"However, to deliver a significant increase in contact time with patients there'd need to be an increase in the number of GPs," he says.

Personal care plans

A Department of Health spokesperson stressed that consultation times are decided locally by GPs.

"Local GPs are best placed to make decisions about the length of consultations, but we are pleased to see that they are already spending more time helping people with long-term conditions to make decisions about their care with a personalised care plan," they said.

"This approach is already making a difference, with over 60% of people with a long term condition reporting they have a care plan."

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