‘Introducing mandates will pile on pressure’ says College Chair

College Chair Kamila Hawthorne features in The Guardian responding to a survey from Healthwatch which found that 7 in 10 patients want the right to see a GP within 24 hours. 

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: "It’s as frustrating for GPs and our teams as it is our patients when they struggle to access our care and services – and we will always try our best to offer timely care, based on the patient’s health needs. To this end, 44% of appointments in March took place on the same day they were booked, with 70% within a week of booking. 

“The reality is that we don’t have enough GPs to guarantee care to all patients within 24 hours of booking - demand for our services would simply outstrip capacity – and there is also a very valid question around whether this is always necessary for non-urgent issues. On average, a fully qualified, full time GP is responsible for 2,295 patients, 260 more than they were six years ago. Introducing mandates for practices to ensure that all appointments are delivered within a set time frame would simply pile on pressure to an already struggling service and be fraught with unintended consequences to patient care – not least the prioritisation of speedy access over continuity of care, which we know has benefits for patients and the health service.

"The College supports a mixed-method approach to delivering care and services in general practice and how a patient accesses their care should be a shared decision between the clinician and them. May patients prefer accessing general practice care in person – and to this end around 70% of appointments are carried out in this way – but many prefer the convenience of flexibility of accessing their care remotely. 

"GPs and our teams are working under intense workload and workforce pressures - the result of longstanding shortfalls in funding and failures in workforce planning - and unfortunately our patients are bearing the brunt. Our general election manifesto outlines seven solutions – including funding for recruitment and retention initiatives - to ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice and provide safe, timely and appropriate patient care.”  

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Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.