RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker:
“GPs will check that patients are up to date with health checks such as smear tests as part of their routine appointment if appropriate. But the choice should always be left to the woman – the average GP consultation is currently only 10 minutes long and it is imperative that this time is dedicated to addressing the particular problem or condition that the patient presents with. No-one should ever leave their GP surgery feeling that they have been pressurised into having a test that they did not want.
“Raising awareness and prevention of cervical cancer is an important part of the GP’s role and we are constantly striving to increase take-up rates.
“GPs and their teams already work very hard to make sure that women can book smear tests at convenient times and in training up other members of the GP team including nurse practitioners and practice nurses so that a GP appointment for a smear test is not always necessary. Many areas of the country also provide screening at alternative sites to the local GP surgery to offer more choice and convenience.
“But GPs are heaving under the pressure of their existing workloads and struggling to cope with soaring numbers of patients who are presenting with multiple and increasingly complex needs so it’s difficult to see how we could offer on the spot tests without additional resources. There is also the issue of having sufficient room in our premises to do the tests.
“Over 90% of patient contacts in the NHS are dealt with in general practice and GPs in England are already seeing 40 million more patients than they were five years ago – yet funding is at an all-time low of 8.39%.
“The crisis in general practice is so severe that at least 27m patients will have to wait more than a week to see a GP this year and 84% of GPs are worried their workloads are so high that they might miss something serious in a patient.
“That is why we are calling on all four governments of the UK to increase funding for general practice to 11% so that we can provide more GPs, more appointments and longer appointments for all our patients.”
RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 49,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.