GPs in Barnet are being forced to spend just half the recommended consultation time with patients thanks to their increasing workload, it was revealed this week.

British Medical Association (BMA) guidelines say that doctors should spend 15 minutes with each patient, but doctors across the borough are currently offering only seven- or eight-minute slots.

Dr Jonathan Lubin of the Derwent Medical Centre in Derwent Crescent, North Finchley, said: "It is not satisfying for us any more because our ability to care for people has been reduced dramatically.

"We have got far more elderly people who may have five or six diagnoses and you just can't do the work in the time you are allocated."

Dr John Brett, chairman of Barnet Local Medical Committee, said meeting Government frameworks put more pressure on doctors:

"There is just this relentless increase on demand on GPs' time. GPs are caught in this terrible, unwinnable dilemma: either give patients adequate time in the surgery, in which case they have to wait a long time to see you, or try to cope with the demand as it floods in, which means you don't have adequate time to treat people."

He added: "Twenty years ago you could probably get away with an average consultation time of eight or ten minutes. Nowadays so much of what we see needs more time.

"One always feels that perhaps you miss something you certainly feel that you haven't dealt with things as thoroughly and effectively as you should have done."

A BMA spokesman said consultation times were a nationwide problem. She said it was "likely" that patients would have to return for a second appointment: "It is a waste of doctors' and patients' time and costs money."