Time, the old cliche goes, is a healer. And if the experiences of GPs in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas is anything to go by, it also appears to have a practical application.

As part of a pioneering research project, family doctors in Govan were given 45-minute slots to deal with patients deemed to have the most complex needs. As many of us will know, standard 10-minute appointments often leave patients and doctors alike feeling short-changed.

Diary entries over the following weeks highlighted that with more time to listen, the GPs were able to better understand their patients’ problems and offer more targeted help. Among those assisted by the initiative were housebound patients, those just given a terminal cancer diagnosis and dementia sufferers not seen by a doctor for over a year.

Anecdotal evidence suggests A&E admissions were down as a result of the project, with surgeries able to deal with many issues before they became a crisis. And as well as helping the patients, it seems the wellbeing of the GPs was also improved, as they experienced job satisfaction and a feeling that their actions were making a real difference to their patients.

We must be cautious, of course. There is no silver bullet to solve the complex health problems associated with poverty and until more research is done over a longer period of time, we cannot come to lasting conclusions about the success or otherwise of longer GP appointments.

There is also, of course, the matter of cost – 45-minute appointments are not only time-consuming, but expensive.

But by investing in the now and allowing GPs to deal with issues before they get out of hand, we may be saving on future hospital admissions. A more flexible system could also help attract and retain GPs at a time when the profession is haemorrhaging staff. We must surely resource more research into such promising initiatives.