The average waiting time for a patient to see their GP has more than tripled in just five years, according to a survey carried out on behalf of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP). A tireless advocate for patient safety and campaigner for a properly resourced general practice, the NAGP is Ireland’s largest representative body for GPs.

The survey revealed that the current waiting time for a patient seeking a routine appointment with their GP has soared from an average of just under 10 hours in 2010 to over 34 hours (1 day, 10 hours & 25 minutes).

However, this is just the tip of the ice berg, the Association fears, as waiting times for urgent patients have also increased. The current waiting time for a patient seeking an urgent appointment with their GP has grown from an average of just over 2 hours (2 hours and 8 minutes) to 5 hours and 12 minutes.

Speaking at the launch of the NAPG’s ‘Patient Wait’ campaign, Dr Yvonne Williams Chair of Communications said: “The IMNO’s Trolley Count is one of the few quality and efficiency barometers of the Irish health service that is easily understood by the general public. With general practice patient waiting times increasing to such a degree, we feel it’s time to introduce a second watch measure at primary care level.”

Commenting on the results, the 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.”

2015 waiting time for a patient to see a you for an Routine Appointment?
 < 3 hourssame day (4-9hrs)1-2 days3-7 days7-14 days
average hrs

1.5

6

36

120

252

results

79

206

222

72

9

588

 

118.5

1236

7992

8640

2268

20254.5

Overall average

34.4

hours
34 hours and 25 minutes
1 Day, 10 hours & 25 minutes
2010 waiting time for a patient to see a you for an Routine Appointment?
 < 3 hourssame day (4-9hrs)1-2 days3-7 days7-14 days
average hrs

1.5

6

36

120

252

results

220

251

65

6

2

544

 

330

1506

2340

720

504

5400

Overall average

9.9

hours
Just under 10 hours
2015 waiting time for a patient to see a you for an Urgent Appointment?
 < 3 hourssame day (4-9hrs)1-2 days3-7 days7-14 days
average hrs

1.5

6

36

120

252

results

357

214

22

2

1

596

 

535.5

1284

792

240

252

3103.5

Overall average

5.2

hours
5 hours and 12 minutes
2010 waiting time for a patient to see a you for an Urgent Appointment?
 < 3 hourssame day (4-9hrs)1-2 days3-7 days7-14 days
average hrs

1.5

6

36

120

252

results

500

48

4

0

0

552

 

750

288

144

0

0

1182

Overall average

2.1

hours
2 hours and 8 minutes

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. However, 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. But rather than attempt to the assist with the crisis in primary care, the Government announced that it intends to extend free GP care for under 6s to all children under 12 by the end of 2016.

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.

The survey was carried out among GPs over a 3-day period between October 16th and 18th. A total of 596 responses were received in relation to the current wait times. The pool of opinion was approximately 9% wait lower in relation to the wait times in 2010. Two GPs suggested that patients would have to more than 14 days for a routine appointment, though these results were excluded from the overall average. The project was conducted independently by Gorilla Survey, one of Ireland’s primary care survey providers.

Editors Notes

About the National Association of General Practitioners
The NAGP is Ireland’s largest representative body for General Practitioners. It campaigns for patient advocacy & better resources in primary care.

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact Andrew Mernagh of on 087-2911028 or andrew@nagp.ie