Appointments with squeezed GPs now last under five minutes for millions of people, NHS data reveals. One in six people in England are now rushed through, analysis shows – getting between one and five minutes with a shrinking number of overstretched community doctors.
The House of Commons Library looked at figures from March 2022 to February 2023 to provide the first ever data on five-minute appointments, broken down by region.
The share of meetings lasting one to five minutes ranged from 16 percent in February this year, up to almost 21 percent last October, on average in England.
There were 51 million five-minute chats with GPs, making up 17.2 percent of the total. In many areas, 20 percent of discussions took less than five minutes.
West Suffolk, former health secretary Matt Hancock’s constituency, had the highest proportion of short GP appointments in the entire country – with 21.8 percent lasting five minutes or less.
Other areas with a high percentage of swift appointments were West Leicestershire (20.9 percent), Ipswich and East Suffolk (20.9 percent) and North East Lincolnshire (20.4 percent).
It has triggered fears that patients – increasingly suffering with multiple, complex health problems – may not be getting the time they need.
The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the research, warned that patients are “waiting for weeks to get an appointment, only to be rushed through in a matter of minutes”.
The Lib Dems’ health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper MP said: “Many patients need time to properly talk through their symptoms with a GP, especially when they have complex health problems.
“But the government’s failure to recruit the extra GPs they promised has meant doctors are being forced to cram in more and more short appointments.”
Britain has some of the briefest average GP appointments among similarly wealthy countries, research previously discovered.
The Royal College of General Practice has declared that all standard GP appointments must be at least 15 minutes by 2030, with even longer appointments laid on for those with complex needs.
The latest study comes after an Office for National Statistics poll found that 10 million people gave up on getting a GP appointment in February, despite needing one.
Of these, 56 per cent blamed long waiting times, 26 per cent said they were unable to get through to the GP practice and 23 per cent simply did not think they would be able to secure a suitable appointment.
In response to the findings, the Liberal Democrats are now calling on the Government to recruit 8,000 more GPs – as well as vowing to give patients a legal right to see a GP within seven days.
Ms Cooper added: “People are being left waiting weeks to get an appointment only to be rushed through in a matter of minutes.
“Entire communities are paying the price for years of neglect under the Conservatives, who have driven local health services into the ground.
“Liberal Democrats have set out a plan to boost GP numbers and guarantee people a right to an appointment within one week, so people can finally get the care and attention they deserve.”