GPs in England will no longer have to offer appointments lasting at least 10 minutes under changes agreed with the government.
It is one of a number of requirements being removed in the latest round of contract negotiations between the government and doctors’ leaders.
NHS England says consultations last on average for around 12 minutes.
It added this change should mean GPs have greater flexibility over how they organise their appointments,
Other changes which have been agreed, and which will come in next April, include enhanced care for the million frailest patients, and named GPs for the four million over-75s,
‘Keen to chat’
The removal of the 10 minute minimum slot for booked appointments is one of the changes being made to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), which accounts for a significant proportion of the funding practices receive,
Dr Dean Marshall, who is part of the British Medical Association’s GP negotiating team, told the BBC: “The 10-minute appointment just isn’t appropriate any more.
“Some patients just need a quick five minutes with us while other patients need much longer because of the complex nature of their health problems.”
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “GPs are professionals who know what is best for their patients.
“GP appointments are currently about 12 minutes long on average.
“GPs should have the flexibility to decide how long an appointment needs to be and how many patients they can see in one day, using their clinical judgement, on a case-by-case basis, based on the needs of their patients.”
QOF is, in effect, a points based system. There are a wide range of targets covered in QOF, each of which has a number of points attached. Those points are linked to funding, so the more a practice achieves, the more funding it gets.
However, there have been concerns, accepted by government in these negotiations, about the number of “boxes” QOF required GPs to “tick”.
Around a quarter of QOF points have been removed and the funding tied to those – around Â£290m – has been transferred to the main practice funding pot.
Other changes agreed will also remove the requirement for GPs to ask patients with diabetes, at every annual check up, whether or not they experience erectile dysfunction.
There will also no longer be a requirement for patients with high blood pressure to go through a detailed, but often irrelevant questionnaire about their activity levels.
A further 100 points worth Â£162m will be removed from the QOF “pot” to fund measures aimed at ensuring patients are not inappropriately admitted to hospital.
Another change agreed in the negotiation is that from April 2014, all practices will have to offer and promote online appointment booking and repeat prescription requests.
Many practices already have the software with the capacity, in theory, to do this.
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