Family doctors issue warning over longer appointment waits facing NHS patients

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Average waiting times to see a family doctor will soar in coming months, a poll of GPs claims.

A fifth of 500 GPs questioned by magazine Pulse said the average wait for non-urgent appointments at present was more than two weeks but 40 per cent predicted patients would wait a fortnight or more by April.

Leeds family doctor Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “These survey results demonstrate what all GPs know - GP workload is dramatically increasing but the resources to deliver a good service are decreasing. Instead of funding cuts we need real and long-term investment to take on more GPs and improve practice premises.”

Labour has pledged to guarantee patients can see a doctor within 48 hours. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “David Cameron is making it harder and harder to get a GP appointment. This is why he’s lost people’s trust on the NHS.”

The Department of Health said: “We want to make it easier to see a GP, which is why we’ve just introduced a new £50 million fund offering millions more people evening and weekend appointments as well as email and Skype consultations.”

In a separate initiative, NHS chiefs in Bradford will today unveil a series of measures to improve access to GPs at a workshop in the city. A review by NHS Bradford Districts Clinical Commissioning Group has confirmed frustration among patients at telephone access, GP appointment systems and “gate keeping” by some reception staff. Findings also show practices face problems due to frequent attenders and those who fail to attend.

Recommendations include reviewing telephone access in particular at lunchtimes, plans for frequent attenders and online booking. Its clinical chairman GP Andy Withers, said: “Access to GP services is not just a local issue: it’s national – and it’s so important because if patients have problems accessing GP services it can have a knock-on effect across the whole of the local NHS system.”