GP consultation times: Where we sit on a world scale

GPs in some lower-income countries are doing 90 consultations a day

Average GP consult times in Australia are among the highest in the world, an international review reveals.

The BMJ study examined the state of play in 67 countries, finding huge international variations in consultation times, ranging from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to more than 22 minutes in Sweden.

Australia ranked 17th, with an average consult time of just under 15 minutes.


Times have been slowly increasing in most rich countries over the last ten years. But in 15 low- and middle-income countries, representing around half the world’s population, appointments are lasting less than five minutes.

Such short consultation length is likely to adversely affect patient healthcare, GP workload and stress, write the authors, who point out that in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, there is no appointment system and GPs may undertake 90 consultations a day.

They say this trend is responsible for driving polypharmacy, overuse of antibiotics and poor communication.

“This supports the argument that there is a practical limit to how short a consultation can be,” write the authors in the BMJ.

“Little can be achieved in less than five minutes ... [other than] triage and prescriptions.”

Yet, even in richer countries, GPs are reporting dissatisfaction with the time available per patient.

The researchers point to a recent survey of GPs in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US that found one-third are dissatisfied with the time available per patient.

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