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BMA Conference Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
GPs want longer with patients
GP consultation
GPs say they cannot spend long enough with each patient
GPs say intense pressure of work is preventing them from spending as long as they would like with individual patients.

Representatives at the British Medical Association annual conference in Bournemouth overwhelmingly backed calls for the average length of consultation to be more than doubled.


People want to spend time with their doctor, they don't want to be in and out

Dr Laurence Buckman
GPs say the average consultation should last for 15 minutes - but at present the average is only seven minutes.

BMA representatives say the only way to increase the amount of time that GPs spend with patients is to increase the number of doctors significantly.

48 hour guarantee

They fear that a government pledge to guarantee all patients an appointment to see a GP within 48 hours by 2004 will crank up workload, and reduce the amount of time that they can spend with each patient still further.

Some representatives argued that GPs should simply ditch the proposal unilaterally and concentrate instead on giving patients the time that they needed.

They argued that doctors should concentrate on people who really need medical help, and should not be forced to waste time seeing absolutely everyone who asked for an appointment.

Dr John Chisholm
Dr John Chisholm said GPs were overburdened
The government has promised an extra 2,000 GPs, but the BMA says five times that number will be needed to meet demand.

GPs are also calling for a cut in bureaucracy.

They are threatening to tear up their NHS contracts en masse early next year if the government does not agree to their demands.

Speaking to the conference, Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said: "All over the UK, GPs are facing a daily struggle to give their patients the high quality care they need while coping with a stream of government initiatives and woefully insufficient resources.

"I know that GPs throughout the country are overburdened with work to the point where many of them feel they cannot go on.

"The complacent shovelling of more and more work onto GPs, the use of general practice as a dumping ground, without giving the profession the numbers needed to carry it out, has to go.

"GPs have had enough. They can take no more. They are at breaking point."

Dr Chisholm said GPs would only tear up their NHS contracts as a last resort, and revealed that the BMA was drawing up contingency plans to safeguard patient care in that event.

Nice aspiration

Dr Laurence Buckman, a senior member of the BMA's GP Committee, told the BBC that the 48-hour guarantee was a "nice aspiration" but completely unachievable without significant extra resources.


How can you in seven minutes show compassion to a patient with a serious life threatening illness?

Dr Chaand Nagpaul
He said: "I can obviously meet this 48-hour target, it is easy. I just spend three minutes with each patient instead of ten, but that is really not a good idea for the patients.

"People want to spend time with their doctor, they don't want to be in and out.

"If you want to spend more time with your doctor, you have got to have more doctors to do the job."

Dr Buckman said there were very few people who wasted doctors' time.

Middlesex GP Dr Chaand Nagpaul said seven minutes was nowhere near long enough to do all the checks needed and talk the patient through their treatment.

"So we short-change our patients, with shortcuts, and hurried examinations, in a maddening pace which barely allows exchanging pleasantries - hardly surprising research shows patients have forgotten half of what we've told them by the time they leave the room.

"How can you in seven minutes show compassion to a patient with a serious life threatening illness, or in the same time listen sensitively to a patient with depression?"

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The best marker of quality care is length of consultation"
The BBC's Paul Moss
talks to GP Faye Wilson about her working practice
Dr John Chisholm, Chairman of BMA's GPs Committee
"Something must be done to make GPs working lives easier"
Vanessa Bourne of the Patients Associstion
"I am delighted that doctors are saying this is the way they want to operate"
The BBC's Richard Hannaford
compares French and Irish GP's with their British counterparts

Talking PointFORUM
NHS crisis?
BMA head Dr Ian Bogle quizzed


Daily coverage

See also:

01 May 01 | Health
01 Jun 01 | Vote2001
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