Hard-working GPs must not be blamed for lack of appointments, says College

The College has responded to a Liberal Democrat survey claiming that patients are turning to ‘DIY’ treatments due to lack of GP appointments. You can read it below.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“We understand patients’ distress and frustrations when they are unable to get a GP appointment, but the blame must not be put onto hard-working GPs and their teams who are doing their absolute best in extremely difficult circumstances to meet the healthcare needs of their patients.

“Strep A, influenza and winter pressures means that GPs are even harder pressed than ever before - we just don't have the numbers of GPs we need to be able to give as many appointments are as needed. We delivered over 33 million consultations in November, and over 41% of these on the day they were booked. It is routine for a GP to see upwards of 50 patients in a day, in some cases many more than this, and this workload is not sustainable, or safe for patients.

“The problems patients are experiencing in accessing general practice services must not be an excuse to further stigmatise and demoralise hard-working GP teams, or for setting unrealistic targets (such as a seven-day limit to see patients). Without proper funding and resources, they would be simply impossible for GP teams to achieve.

“We want our patients to receive timely and appropriate care, but difficulties in accessing our services are the consequence of a long under-resourced, underfunded, and understaffed service working under unsustainable pressures. We have been making this point to government for at least 10 years now. The complexity and intensity of our workload is ever increasing. On average, a fully qualified, full-time equivalent GP is caring for more patients than in 2019, while the numbers of fully qualified, full-time equivalent workforce have fallen. GP teams are overstretched and exhausted and this isn’t safe for them or for their patients.

“We understand that difficulties in getting GP appointments will drive some patients to take matters into their own hands and turn to the internet or try to ‘cure’ themselves. However, we urge them to use reputable NHS-accredited resources which are written and quality assured by qualified and experienced medical professionals.

“However, while self-care has an important role to play, there are some patients who will need the expertise, knowledge and skills that only a GP or member of the practice team can provide.

“The real solution is a larger GP workforce, as well as more members of the wider practice team, so we are fully equipped to sustainably deliver safe, appropriate and timely care for the large numbers of patients needing our services. This is why the College has long been calling on government to urgently focus on addressing the enduring pressures on GP teams. We must see a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged by the Government in its election manifesto, funding for general practice returned to 11% of the total NHS spend, investment in our IT systems and premises, and steps to cut bureaucracy. This will help ensure that GPs can spend more time with their patients and give them the care they need and deserve.”

Further information

Actual appointment figures have been replaced by estimated figures to provide a more accurate representation of workload data.

RCGP Press office - 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

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.