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General practice

UK has shortest GP consultations in Europe, study finds

A Cambridge University study found that British patients spend just over nine minutes with their doctor, which is concerning because average consultation length is a quality indicator used by the World Health Organization.

The UK has the shortest GP consultations in Europe, according to the findings of a new study published in BMJ Open.

The global study, carried out by researchers at Cambridge University, found that on average British patients spend just over nine minutes with their GP during an appointment.

The data show that consultation times are increasing by a mere 4.2 seconds year-on-year in the UK. The study analysed consultation times for patients and their GPs in 67 countries around the world and found that in 28 countries patients spent a longer time on average with their family doctor than those in the UK.

The researchers highlight the fact that average consultation length is a quality indicator used by the World Health Organization and the International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs to promote the safe and cost-effective use of drugs around the world.

They argue that consultation times “should be universally and regularly reported and over time be accepted as an essential measure on the quality of health services around the world”.

Responding to the finding Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “The time GPs have to spend with our patients is precious, and the more time we are able to spend with them, the better patient-centred care we are able to provide — so it is concerning to see that every UK study included in this research shows that we are spending less than ten minutes on average with our patients during their consultation.

“Increasingly, patients are living with multiple, long-term chronic conditions, both physical and psychological — and at the same time GPs are being asked to do more checks, ask more questions and give more advice as standard during consultations. The standard ten-minute appointment is simply inadequate to deal with this.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203923

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