01.03.2024

Nearly four in ten GP surgeries set limits on the number of patients they will deal with each day

Almost four in ten GP surgeries set a limit on the number of patients they will deal with each day. The British Medical Association recommends GPs see up to 25 patients per day – a cap which was recently described as ‘arbitrary’ by NHS officials.

But a survey has found that 40 per cent of GP partners have a daily limit to the number of patients they will see – before redirecting them to other services.

The survey, from doctors’ magazine Pulse, asked GP partners if their surgery has a daily limit for the number of patient contacts.

These ‘contacts’ are thought to include all patient appointments, either carried out in person or remotely.

The British Medical Association recommends GPs see up to 25 patients per day. But a survey has found 40 percent of GP partners have a daily limit to the number of patients they will see

The British Medical Association recommends GPs see up to 25 patients per day. But a survey has found 40 percent of GP partners have a daily limit to the number of patients they will see

Campaigners have criticised the limit. Dennis Reed, whose group Silver Voices campaigns for the elderly, said: ‘To be told they can’t get an appointment because of a limit on patient contacts is frustrating and demoralising’

However, they could also include any direct communication between a GP and patient.

Campaigners have criticised the limit, saying the findings are ‘frustrating’.

Dennis Reed, whose group Silver Voices campaigns for the elderly, said: ‘Many people who want to speak to a GP have already spent a few days suffering before they seek help.

‘To be told they can’t get an appointment because of a limit on patient contacts is frustrating and demoralising.

‘There is no reason why we shouldn’t be striving to return to the same level of appointments as before the pandemic.’

However several GP partners said they had to limit patient numbers for safety.

A GP partner in north-east London, whose practice has a daily limit of 25 patients per doctor, said: ‘The thing we need to emphasise is that this is not about sloth, this is not about keeping things under control – it’s about keeping things safe.’

The doctor, who preferred to remain anonymous, said doctors need to be able to focus on every patient, adding: ‘You need to be 100 per cent sharp, you need to be picking up on cues, you need to be very, very alert, and safe in that.’

Some 860 GP practices responded to the survey – a sample size which the Department of Health and Social Care said was small.

As those surgeries who told the magazine they had set a daily patient limit make up less than 3 per cent of all GP practices in England, it remains unclear whether the majority have done so.

Dr Samira Anane, from the BMA, said: ‘While the sample size of this survey is too small to be truly representative of general practice, the BMA’s [recommended limit] ensures that patients are provided with high-quality care to address their full range of needs.’

But Dr Amanda Doyle, NHS England’s national primary care director, told Pulse the limit was ‘arbitrary’, adding: ‘We don’t want practices routinely – when they are open – diverting patients.’

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