GP waiting time breaches two weeks for first time, as new housing developments blamed for pressure on surgeries


Patients are having to wait more than two weeks on average for a routine GP appointment for the first time, according to a survey.

The survey of 901 GPs across the UK found that the average waiting time for routine appointments is now almost 15 days – the first time it has ever exceeded a fortnight, according to Pulse magazine who carried out the research.

Some GPs responding to the survey warned that waiting times are increasing because they are not being given extra funding to cope with an influx of new patients when housing developments are built in their area.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee Chair, said “all too often” new housing developments do not take into account that GP surgeries will have to grow to accommodate the new influx of patients.

One GP who recorded a four to five week patient waiting list said: “Our list size continues to grow because there are so many housing developments. We are poorly remunerated under the GMS contract for the hard work that we do. Patient demand continues to soar with higher expectations despite dreadful government funding. MPs have a lot to answer for.”

Pulse magazine’s survey found that 58% of GPs said the average waiting time was two weeks or more. Over 30% of GPs said the average waiting time was between two and three weeks, with only 20% saying the average was less than a week.

More than 22% of GPs said that the wait for a routine appointment was more than three weeks, while 6% said that it was longer than four weeks.

Patients are routinely waiting several weeks for GP appointments, with the British Medical Association reporting earlier this year that there had been a 15% increase in month-long waits for GP appointments.

The number of full-time equivalent GPs has been falling in recent years at the same time demand has been rising.

Another GP with a four to five week waiting list, said: “We currently have barely any pre-bookable appointments available due to lack of capacity.”

BMA GP committee chair, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: “All too often new housing developments do not take in to account the need to support the expansion of local GP services, both in terms of more staff and bigger or new surgeries.

“Without this planning and additional investment it simply puts more strain on already struggling practices and impacts on their ability to offer timely appointments to both new and existing patients.”

“Waiting times are a key indicator of the pressure on services and these latest figures highlight the reality of the capacity issues that many GP practices across the country are facing.

“GPs’ number one priority is treating their patients and they work incredibly hard to do so, often outside of their contracted hours in practices that are understaffed.

“What is clear however, is that despite the best efforts of practices, patient demand is continuing to grow and with it the rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “This survey represents a small fraction of GPs, and the latest official NHS data shows two in three appointments happen within seven days of being booked, but we are determined to reduce GP waiting times further.” 


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