Average waiting time for GP has tripled in five years

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The National Association of GPs says average waiting times to see a GP has more than tripled in just five years.

The body also says four out of five doctors in Connacht cannot see their patients in urgent situations.

The current waiting time for a patient seeking a routine appointment with their GP has soared from just under 10 hours in 2010 to over 34 hours this month, according to a recent survey of 596 GPs taken between October 16th and 18th.

Commenting on the results, Chair of Communications Dr Yvonne Williams said: “These figures show how much pressure general practice is under at the moment and act as a warning sign for the safety of patients.

“Long waiting times at emergency departments are a well-established phenomenon of the Irish health system but these figures confirm that the issue has spread to general practices.

The reduction in, and illogical allocation of, resources within the sector are resulting in a multitude of crises that is now firmly rooted in general practice.”

She says increased GP based services means patients will be left waiting longer and longer:

The NAGP has repeatedly warned that general practice is on its knees and of the consequent risk to patient’s health. Over 60% of GPs surveyed now see more than 15 patients in an average clinic session and 21% see more than 20 patients on average in each session.

The body has highlighted that while over 90% of all day-to-day patient interactions take place in general practice, the vast majority of funding continues to be ploughed into the hospital system.

It has criticised the Government's announced that it intends to extend free GP care for under-6s to all children under 12 by the end of 2016, rather than deal with the crisis in primary care.

Prioritising predominately healthy patients ahead of those with chronic diseases is illogical and wholly unjust when general practice care is already at maximum capacity, the NAGP warned. Extending the scheme will also compound the current wait times for the sickest patients, putting patient safety further at risk.

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