09.08.18

Quarter of patients have to wait a week or longer to see GP, major survey shows

Almost a quarter of patients have to wait a week or longer to see their family doctor, figures have revealed— with health bosses saying the NHS is “running at boiling point all year round.”

Latest figures from NHS England’s annual patient survey— which casts the opinion of 760,000 patients using the health service around the country— found that about one in four of those who initially aimed to book an appointment to see their GP that day did not see their doctor until a week or more later.

The waiting time for doctors has skyrocketed in recent times; in the last six years those waiting over a week to see a GP has almost doubled, from 12.8% to 23.8%

The survey findings highlight health bosses’ concerns with primary care around the country: yesterday the chair of the Royal College of GPs called for an urgent overhaul of the GP Forward View plan, with a £2.5bn cash boost seen as necessary to ensure the future of continuity of care. Mounting pressures on primary care has also pushed many professionals away from the industry— a recent DHSC survey identified that two in five doctors could leave the profession within five years.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said the summer has provided “no respite” for NHS staff who are now working flat out to meet unsustainable levels of demand all year-round.

“The pressures are felt across hospital, community, mental health and ambulance services, not just A&E,” he added. “We need urgent decisions about how we properly invest and put in place the necessary staff, beds and resources we need to deliver what is required of the NHS throughout the year. Time is running out to put plans in place for sufficient capacity ahead of this winter.”

Despite the negative statistics of some GP waiting times, many of the patient responses were positive: a massive 95.6% of those surveyed had confidence and trust in their GP, whilst 93.5% of patients felt involved in decisions about their care and treatment.

And, in spite of growing demand on doctors across the UK, over four in five (83.8%) of patients described their overall experience of their GP practice as good.

Chair of the RCGP Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the statistics are a “testament to the great efforts” to patient care shown by GP teams across the country. She noted, however, that longer waiting times for an appointment with doctors can mean patients may not receive the treatment they need in the early stages of their condition.

“The plain truth is that existing GPs and our teams are working to absolute capacity and we just don't have enough GPs to offer enough appointments,” she argued.

“Health secretary Matt Hancock has identified workforce and prevention as two of his top priorities— if he is serious about tackling the GP workforce crisis, and keeping patients out of hospital where care is far costlier, it is essential that the government invests properly in general practice.”

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Image credit: ijeab

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