© 2017 Article author(s). All rights reserved. Objectives Consultation duration has previously been shown to be associated with patient, practitioner and practice characteristics. However, previous studies were conducted outside the UK, considered only small numbers of general practitioner (GP) consultations or focused primarily on practitioner-level characteristics. We aimed to determine the patient-level and practice-level factors associated with duration of GP and nurse consultations in UK primary care. Design and setting Cross-sectional data were obtained from English general practices contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) linked to data on patient deprivation and practice staffing, rurality and Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) achievement. Participants 218 304 patients, from 316 English general practices, consulting from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Analysis Multilevel mixed-effects models described the association between consultation duration and patient-level and practice-level factors (patient age, gender, smoking status, ethnic group, deprivation and practice rurality, number of full-time equivalent GPs/nurses, list size, consultation rate, quintile of overall QOF achievement and training status). Results Mean duration of face-to-face GP consultations was 9.24 min and 5.32 min for telephone consultations. Nurse face-to-face and telephone consultations lasted 9.70 and 5.73 min on average, respectively. Longer GP consultation duration was associated with female patient gender, practice training status and older patient age. Shorter duration was associated with higher deprivation and consultation rate. Longer nurse consultation duration was associated with male patient gender, older patient age and ever smoking; and shorter duration with higher consultation rate. Observed differences in duration were small (eg, GP consultations with female patients compared with male patients were 8 s longer on average). Conclusions Small observed differences in consultation duration indicate that patients are treated similarly regardless of background. Increased consultation duration may be beneficial for older or comorbid patients, but the benefits and costs of increased consultation duration require further study.