Waiting times not the fault of hard-working GPs - we work tirelessly to give patients the choice of appointment they want, says College Chair

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has made claims that too many patients are waiting for more than a fortnight for a GP appointment. In response, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said the following.

"GPs and our teams are working tirelessly to deliver safe, timely and appropriate care, and to give patients the choice of appointment they want. Around 85% of appointments in general practice are already happening within two weeks of being booked. Almost half are delivered on the day they are booked - and those taking longer than two weeks after booking may be routine or regular appointments for which the timing is therefore appropriate.

"A sustainable health service relies on an efficient and robust general practice service. GPs and our teams are the bedrock of the NHS, making the vast majority of NHS patients contacts. In doing so we alleviate pressures across the health service, including in A&E. But we can only do this if our service is staffed and resourced sufficiently, and currently this is not the case.

"We share our patients' frustration when they struggle to access our care. However, this is not down to GPs and their hard-working teams, but due to decades of under-funding and poor resource planning. We are delivering more appointments overall compared to before the pandemic, but with 852 fewer full-time fully qualified GPs compared to 2019.

“It is not too late to turn this dire situation around to revitalise general practice as a clinician’s career of choice, and restore continuity of care for patients. The forthcoming primary care recovery plan and long-awaited NHS workforce plan will be key opportunities to do this. We hope these plans will contain the necessary resources needed to ensure GPs can deliver the high-quality, complex care they are dedicated to.

"Ultimately, we need to see a bold new plan from the Government that goes beyond the target of 6,000 more GPs it pledged in its election manifesto, as well as significant investment in GP practices and IT systems to make it easier for patients to access care. Government must also take steps to cut bureaucracy so that GPs have more time to deliver care to the growing numbers of patients who need it. But the bottom line is that we need many more GPs.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

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.