Patients Concerned at Hidden Waiting Lists
Apr 20, 2005 - 7:36:38 PM

The Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Dr Mayur Lakhani, spoke today of the bottleneck experienced by many patients during their care within the National Health Service (NHS).

Speaking at the launch of the RCGPs General Election Manifesto, Dr Lakhani said: “Patients do experience a bottleneck in their care where GPs are not able to order a scan for a patient but have instead to refer a patient to a consultant first. Patients can have to wait a number of weeks or months for this appointment and then again once the scan has been ordered. It is like a hidden waiting list and is of great concern to patients who want to have investigations and get the results from those investigations.”

Launching its ten key areas for action, the RCGP is calling for ‘provision of better and faster access to diagnostic tests and other support to enable GPs to deliver high quality and safer care’ in order to help eliminate such bottlenecks.

Other key areas outlined in the Manifesto include a call for longer GP consultation times and tackling fragmentation of the primary health care service.

Dr Lakhani said: “Every minute makes a difference in a general practice consultation. We need more flexibility in the system as time with patients is a valuable commodity. It builds trust and we need to invest in it. Ten minutes is increasingly not enough and we would like to work towards 15 minute consultations for those that need it.”
“It is good that patients have a choice of services but this is tending to fragment care. Patients are not sure who to turn to and we don’t want the health service to become so fragmented that services become complex and confused. An important function of general practice is that GPs co-ordinate care.”

One area of significant concern is out-of-hours care and the Manifesto calls for ‘improvement in the quality of out-of-hours care by enforcing standards and investing further in GP involvement’. “Outside of normal surgery hours is a time when patients feel very vulnerable” said Dr Maureen Baker, Honorary Secretary of the RCGP, at today’s press conference. “People are concerned when they fall ill out-of-hours and currently there can be a delay in getting a response. GPs did vote in their new contract not to have 24 hour responsibility for their patients but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be involved in the out-of-hours service. It seems some Primary Care Trusts have set up new services that haven’t sufficiently drawn on the experience of GPs. We are concerned that this is not good for patients.”

Tackling health inequalities in both inner city and rural areas is a vital area for all the political parties to acknowledge says the Manifesto. “It is now quite clear that the areas that have the greatest need also have the least number of GPs” explained Dr Baker. “We need better mechanisms to ensure a fairer distribution of GPs.”

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