Tuesday 29 July 2003 Doctors across England are now telling patients that they should not make an appointment until 8.30am on the day they want to attend because this is the only way they can meet the latest targets which call for no patient to wait longer than 48 hours to see their GP.
But patient groups say it discriminates against elderly and vulnerable patients who need to plan appointments in advance so they can arrange transport. It is also proving difficult for people in work who need to arrange cover for time off.
Peter Holden, a Derbyshire GP and senior member of the British Medical Association, was one of the first to introduce the system, said: “We have had a lot of complaints from patients who don’t like this scheme at all. But we were put under quite a lot of pressure from our primary care trust to adopt it. They are being judged on 48-hour waits and this is one way they see of achieving it.”
Under the scheme, which is now believed to affect about 2.6 million people in England, patients are guaranteed an appointment on the day that they phone, but the time depends on how quickly they phone the surgery after it opens.
Simon Williams, of the Patients’ Association, said: “I am just not sure what the advantage of this scheme is. It appears we may be going back to the time when patients were queueing out of the door for the doctor’s surgery to open.”