‘Introducing mandates will pile on pressure’ says College Chair

Source: rcgp 17.5.24

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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