Patients waiting a day and a half to see their GP
Published 26/10/2015 | 02:30
Patients must now wait an average of a day and a half - or 34 hours - to get just a routine appointment to see their GP, a new survey reveals.
The delay is three times longer than in 2010 when it averaged 10 hours.
And one-in-eight GPs surveyed had an average waiting time for a routine appointment of five days. Meanwhile, in a small number of surgeries (2pc) it can be 10 days.
The waiting time for an urgent appointment is now on average 5 hours and 12 minutes. This compares to more than two hours in 2010.
The slow-down in getting access to a consultation has been blamed on the struggle faced by busy family doctors to meet growing patient demands.
The survey was commissioned by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), the newest doctors' union representing a majority of GPs.
It has launched its 'Patient Wait' campaign which will track the delays faced by patients in coming months. Surgeries are at risk of buckling even further under the winter strain with added pressures due to extension of free care to children under-six and the over-70s.
The average waiting time for an urgent appointment is worst in Connacht - just 19.5pc of GPs can see a patient in less than three hours compared to 43pc in Leinster.
The shortest average wait for a routine appointment is in Munster where a GP can see a patient the next morning - a delay of around 28.5 hours.
Commenting on the results Dr Yvonne Williams, spokeswoman for the NAGP said: "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, similar to the nurses' trolley watch in emergency departments.
"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."
She said more than 60pc of GPs surveyed said they now see more than 15 patients in an average clinic session; 21pc see more than 20 patients.
The survey was carried out between October 16 and 18 with 596 responses received in relation to waiting times.