/ Health

Will changes to GPs be the cure to your medical irritations?

Female blowing nose on the phone

An end to 10-minute doctor appointments, registering with a surgery of your choice and booking appointments online – what do the changes to the GP and health sector in England mean for you and your family?

A new contract for GPs in Englandwas announced earlier this month, with changes due to come into force in 2014-2015. These moves are pitched as offering a return to a more personalised service from your GP. There are a number of changes due to come in and I’m keen to hear how you’ll respond to the developments.

For example, the requirement for GPs to no longer have to offer 10-minute appointments is being scrapped. This works for me personally as it usually only takes five minutes or so for me to present my dodgy sinuses to the doctor.

But this is perhaps not so good when I think about the Which? mystery shopping of GPs last year, when we sent trained undercover fieldworkers into 30 GP practices across the country to assess the consultations given to patients. Consultation times varied between three minutes to 20 minutes for the same patients with the same symptoms. And we found a link between the length of consultation and the rating, with all 12 ‘poor’ consultations lasting eight minutes or less and all but two of the 14 ‘good’ visits lasting 10 minutes or more.

Registering with a surgery of your choice

How about the plans to make it easier for me to register with a surgery of my choice outside traditional practice boundaries? Sounds good if I can visit a doctor near to where I work in Central London. But what will the effect be on my local practice if patients like me jump ship?

At least I’ll be able to book my appointments online, another agreement in the GP contract. That means no more dialling and re-dialling as soon as the surgery opens. This development sounds like bliss to me as long as there’s an appointment left for me to book. And the increased access to telephone consultations sounds good for avoiding having to sit in a crowded waiting room.

Named and accountable GP for elderly patients

My parents will like the idea of having a named and accountable GP (they’re both over 75 so this applies to them, and my dad has serious health problems). Although it will be good to understand what this will mean in practice – surely they won’t be able to ring their named GP at all hours of the day and night? And will their GP really have time to form personal relationships with all those patients?

There have been other commitments outside of the GP contract update too, including  offering  longer opening hours too , with seven day a week services being piloted. What’s not to like about the flexibility of being able to see my GP on a Sunday – although I wonder how the resourcing is going to work.

But there’s one commitment that really appeals: all GP practices will publish GP net earnings from 2015 – something we’ll be keeping an eye on just as we would any other industry or sector.

So what do you think of the proposed changes -are you happy to book an appointment online to save time or will you miss the personal touch? Would you like to have a named and accountable GP no matter what your age is?


I am cautiously optimistic about the proposed changes. One of the reasons I chose my present GP surgery was they seemed to be better organised than the others in the area. It offers telephone consultations and Saturday appointments, though I have not chosen to use either. I do book GP appointments online, choosing either an appointment with my own GP or sometimes with another member of the practice if I want to be seen more promptly. The appointments are notionally for ten minutes but longer consultations are offset by shorter ones, so there is rarely a significant waiting time.

The opportunity to choose a GP outside existing boundaries is interesting. Joanna makes a good point about the convenience of visiting a GP near her work, but what will happen if people start to do this just because a GP or their practice has a good reputation?


I don’t think the convenience of seeing a GP near your place of work is a good point at all. If you need to see a GP, what are you doing at work?


Since I’m stopped work, I haven’t been to a doctor for over 3 years now.

Having a doctor near work would have cut down the amount of stress and grief you’d get for needing time off just to see one. Although you could always stay extra late to make up the time, regardless of how many extra hours you’d already put in that week.

And being able to book online would certainly make it easier ( no that line is busy please try again for almost 30 mins ) and no huge phone bills cos they were using expensive lines.

Rachel says:
27 November 2013

I welcome the change particularly I have changed my GP twice in the past four years due to dissatisfied service. I wish I could register with the one near work. She is popular and experienced. The author said those GPs outside the city will be left out. I’m not worried at all. I think the new system will eliminate those who are not good enough to be in the system. One good visit is much more important than two mediocre visits which ended with some painkillers.

Online booking is a must nowadays. I will never register with a GP practice which only takes phone calls at 8:30am (does it only help those who don’t work?)

Pauline Rhead says:
28 November 2013

I like the extended opening as getting in to see a doctor at my practise is my main bugbear. I also like the idea of booking on-line. Registering with a practice of your choice would depend if they had a full patient list. I have a surgery 5 minutes down the road but they don’t take new patients. Luckily the practice I am with ( about 15 minutes away) is very good apart from trying to book an appointment in advance. Urgent appointments on the day of ringing I have always found available buy booking a non urgent appointment almost impossible.


Having used the online booking system through EMIS access for several years I did not know it is not already universal.

Whilst using a surgery near to work may be useful occasionally I should have thought that near to home when home-confined (infectious etc.) would be more convenient. If one could change at will from one to another it seems to be a nightmare for administration when my experience is that I am currently awaiting the fifth version of a hospital referral appointment (the last one was the third attempt). Local practices do not promise to be more efficient.

My local practice already has fixed doctor for 50+ with other doctors available if non-core matters and the admirable nurse practice for bloods etc.

Availability must be on a need basis and not a 24/7 all services. Perhaps an extension of the duty practice system where possible would satisfy.

Payments to GP practices is not indicative of individual doctors’ incomes and varies enormously depending on services provided. A full breakdown would be difficult to maintain and publish and not helpful for most people. It would simply be another ‘them’ bashing statistic for the intellectually challenged politically correct.

Andrew says:
29 November 2013

I strongly agree with your many good points.
For years my EMIS practice has had electronic booking of appointments, not to mention automatic electronic transfer of test results and prescriptions.
And why all the excitement about “a named and accountable GP” for the elderly? Wasn’t that the system we had for everyone, young and old, since the dawn of the NHS until it was removed a few years ago in yet another “reorganisation”?
Politicians seem to love the revolving doors of reorganisation. Once they have stopped something they can proudly announce its reintroduction as an improvement in the service! And announcing as new something that at least some have had for years is both disingenuous and annoying.

Rosie says:
28 November 2013

We have online appts but little availability and none within 2 wks. Good re surgeries outside area as can be quicker to get to than supposedly local one. Good re GP pay but why net not gross and net of what? 10 min appts should stay. GPs should have to do callouts locally, not ever changing temp drs. GP pay needs reviewing. They shouldn’t be able to get equivalent of full time pay for part time hrs. Difference between working hrs and conditions between GPs and doctors in hospitals appears very unfair on hospital drs. Our GPs now seem to have very cushy jobs for too high pay!