Doctors and surgeons warn of longer wait times for patients

By Gillian Crotty

A survey of doctors suggests that the current average waiting time for patients to see a GP is 13 days, and that it will increase to 3 weeks despite government pledges to recruit more doctors.

Ministers have pledged to add 5,000 more doctors by 2010, but the survey of 830 doctors by the GP magazine Pulse, suggests that even if the promises were delivered it wouldn't be sufficient to stop waiting times rising to 3 weeks. Falling GP numbers, underfunding, and a failure to reduce unnecessary appointments are said to be behind the growing waiting times for patients to be seen, which has risen from 10 days in 2015 to 13 days.

The survey also revealed that despite an overall average waiting time of 13 days for patients to see a GP, over 40 per cent of patients are currently waiting more than 2 weeks for a routine appointment.

Chair of BMA's GP Committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, says decisive action is required or "waits to see a GP will rocket to several weeks in the coming years as patient demand continues to rise, and will seriously compromise patient care."

Elsewhere, the Royal College of Surgeons has advised that the number of patients in England waiting 6 months or more for surgery has tripled over the last 4 years. Figures show that 9 out of 10 patients are seen within 18 weeks, but nearly 20,000 people waiting for surgery in March had been doing so for over 9 months. The surgeons have voiced their concern that wait times of surgery are likely to increase in the future.

Waiting times for medical appointments, diagnosis and treatment are closely monitored because avoidable delays can greatly impact the ability to treat or manage the worsening condition of the patient. In serious cases, delays in treatment can reduce the options available to doctors and surgeons, and can cause otherwise avoidable suffering and long-term harm.

If you have suffered injury or loss as a result of a delay in diagnosis or treatment, or as a result of receiving a poor standard of medical care, contact one of the clinical negligence solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast by clicking here to discuss your options to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim.