‘Long waiting times for GP appointments are not the fault of hard-pressed GPs’, says College Chair

Responding to claims by the Liberal Democrats that patients are ignoring potential cancer symptoms due to long waits for GP appointments, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:

“Every patient who has symptoms or suspects they might have cancer should be able to see a GP when they need to. They also deserve timely and appropriate care and referral. However, late diagnosis is not the fault of hard-pressed GPs who are trying to do their best for their patients in the most difficult circumstances.

“We share our patients’ frustrations and worries when they find it difficult to access our services, but we no longer have enough GPs to meet demand. GPs delivered over 28 million appointments in August 2023, with 70% of these being held within a week of being booked - all with 833 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than in 2019. Every GP in England is now responsible for 2300 patients and this is unsustainable.

“General practice has been allowed to decline for well over a decade, with the result that more GPs are leaving the profession than are entering it.  The Government must come up with urgent solutions for the sake of our patients and the hardworking and dedicated doctors who are burning out due to workload pressures.

“As well as recruiting and training more GPs, we need to see a fully funded national retention scheme and measures to cut the amount of time that GPs have to spend on bureaucracy when they want to be caring for their patients.

“Meanwhile, we urge patients not to attempt to treat conditions as serious as suspected cancer as this can have very serious medical implications. Under no circumstances should anyone try to remove moles on themselves or others. Anyone who is concerned that they may potentially have symptoms of cancer should contact their GP. Despite the significant pressures they’re under daily, our hard-working GPs will always try to ensure their patients receive timely and appropriate care.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

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.