10-minute limit per patient runs British doctors ‘into the ground’

Doctor time

American doctors aren’t the only ones frustrated by the shrinking amount of time they can spend with patients. In Britain, 10-minute patient appointments are running general practices “into the ground.”

In a new report, the British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors cannot treat patients properly under a recommended 10-minute limit per patient visit. The BMA suggested increasing appointment lengths to 15 minutes, a limit that has become common in the United States. While an increase in time for the doctors in the United Kingdom, many of their counterparts in America are still unhappy with scheduling patient visits in 15-minute increments forcing them to keep an eye on the clock.

“General practice in the UK cannot be allowed to continue being run into the ground. It's time for positive change that gives patients the care they deserve,” said Brian Balmer, M.D., a member of the association’s general practice committee executive team, in the announcement.

The normal 10-minute patient visits mean that some doctors see up to 60 patients a day and do not provide enough time for patients with complicated needs. The association says that number should be limited to 25 a day per doctor, which is the recommended level in many European Union countries.

The medical association proposals were made in a report,“Safe Working Levels in General Practice,” which looked at ways to help tackle what it described as a rocketing workload in the general practice specialty.

A spokesman for the National Health Service in England told The Independent that it is up individual general practices to decide how much time to allocate to individual patient appointments based on patient need. The spokesman said there are no national limits that suggest 10 minutes as the norm for visits, the newspaper said.

While in the U.S. physicians and patients both express increased dissatisfaction with rushed appointments, it’s critical to make the time count. A key element of productive face time with patients, therefore, is making sure physicians truly listen to patients.