/ 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?


My GP’s surgery has seven women GP’s and only two men GP’s. For many patients that is a good ratio as women GP’s can treat the majority of patients without needing a chaperone and they also seem to be better listeners than their male colleagues. There is a downside though: the men work five days per week and an occasional Saturday morning whilst the women work between one and three days per week. None work a full week. My own GP is a women and when she is not on maternity leave I have to wait about three weeks for an appointment with her. It seems to me that we need to hire two-three women GP’s to manage the same number of patients as men GP’s. Perhaps the women GP’s would be better suited to A&E where continuity of care is less important and they can work hours more suited to family commitments.

I no longer have any interaction with reception staff as I book my appointments online and check myself in for my appointment when I arrive at the surgery. So why then are the reception staff so busy that they can’t answer the phone to other patients?

I have just received a GP Survey from NHS England but I can’t give a true picture of my experience with my GP as questions like “how long do you wait for an appointment” has a maximum period of “over 1 week”. My wait of three weeks will not be noted. Also, there is nowhere to add a comment on the number of part time GP’s employed in the practice. It is just a tick box exercise.

Also the NHS should not be run by solicitors or accountants. These people seem reluctant to try things that may help people with the same sort of ethic as nurses, doctors and surgeons. They are more likely to be motivated by fees, salaries, “disbursements” and collecting VAT.