PUBLICATION of GP appointment waiting times in England will allow patients to make “more informed choices” on the practice they choose to visit, says the Department of Health and Social Care.
Statistics on waiting times covering all GP practices across England are being made available to inform patients how many appointments each practice is delivering and the length of time taken from booking to the appointment itself.
The Government says this will "improve transparency about performance and give patients more information to help them make informed choices when choosing their practice".
The statistics will be accessed on NHS Digital’s website and will form part of the GP data published monthly, with details at practice level.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "We promised to prioritise patients and improve access and that is exactly what we have done – and this is just the start.
"I am determined to make it easier for people to get an appointment with their GP practice when they need one and this will allow patients to make a more informed choice about the care they receive."
The Government's Autumn Statement reaffirmed its expectation that all those who need an appointment can get one within two weeks, with urgent appointments on the same day.
The new Royal College of GPs Chair Kamila Hawthorne commented that NHS figures show GPs and their teams delivered a record 36.1 million consultations in October, almost 40 per cent of these on the day they were booked and more than 71 per cent in-person, which is the highest proportion since before the pandemic.
She said: “It's disappointing that the hard work of GP teams, working in incredibly difficult circumstances, is being overshadowed by the publication of practice-level data allowing arbitrary comparisons between practices. GP practices work in different ways to account for differing patient numbers, demographics and needs - they cannot be compared like for like, so this simply risks being used as a stick to beat those practices that are deemed not to be performing as well as others.
"Good, safe and appropriate GP care can be delivered both in person and remotely, and the College has always said that post-pandemic patients should be able to access GP care and services in a variety of ways depending on their health needs and preferences. In person care will always be an essential part of general practice - today's figures show that most care is being delivered in this way - but many patients find remote consulting convenient and effective.
“Instead of focusing on publishing data that undermines the hard work of GP teams, singling out and demoralising practices that are potentially struggling most, the Government should focus on addressing the root cause of the unrelenting workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are working under and support them to deliver high-quality and safe patient care.
"This is why the Government must heed the College’s calls to develop a recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond its manifesto pledge of 6,000 GPs, as well as a review and revamp of existing GP retention schemes. We also need measures to make GP workload more manageable by reducing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, as well as a return to 11 per cent of the total health spend, and investment in our IT systems and premises.”
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