Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Observed

Appointment systems: evaluation of a flexible system offering patients limited choice

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 05 March 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:685
  1. A T Harrison


    To test the efficiency of a flexible appointments system patients seeing one of the partners in a semirural dispensing practice were asked to choose whether they wanted appointments lasting five, 10, or 15 minutes. After seeing the doctor they were asked to fill in a questionnaire that asked, among other questions, how long an appointment they had booked, whether they had felt rushed, whether the doctor had seemed hurried, whether they had seen the doctor on the day they wanted, how long they had had to wait in the surgery, and whether they liked the system. Five minute appointments had been chosen by 124 of the 309 patients who returned completed questionnaires, 10 minute appointments by 155, and 15 minute appointments by 30. Mean consultation times were 6·1, 9·2, and 12·9 minutes, respectively. Altogether 298 patients liked the system.

    An appointment system that was flexible while remaining practical and efficient resulted from letting patients choose the length of their appointment. Such a system encourages patients to share in the responsibility of organising a practice efficiently.