One in 10 Brits failed to get through to their GP surgery last month, a survey suggests.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which polled 4,984 households, found 10 per cent didn’t manage to make contact with their practice when they last tried.
The figure equates to around 2.8million people each month, according to statisticians.
Data also shows that three in 10 Brits found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to get through to their practice.
Experts blamed ‘intense workload and workforce pressures’ in the general practice system and said the figure ‘isn’t surprising’.
The Office for National Statistics ( ONS ), which polled 4,984 households, found 10 per cent didn’t manage to make contact with their practice when they last tried
Graph shows the ratio of GP patients to practices. Latest NHS England data shows there is an average of 9,740 patients per surgery
The poll, which was conducted between October 18 and 29, showed that 53 per cent of respondents had contacted their practice in the last month.
Of this group, 65 per cent managed to get a response from their GP on the same day, while 10 per cent got through the following day and 15 per cent eventually talked to their practice two or more days later.
One in five said they found contacting their practice to be ‘difficult’, while 10 per cent said the process was ‘very difficult’.
Some 45 per cent were given an appointment within two weeks, while 16 per cent had to wait more than a fortnight. The same proportion received the help they needed over the phone and two per cent called 111 instead.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘GPs want our patients to receive safe, timely and appropriate care, so we share their frustrations and worries when they have difficulty accessing our services.
What does the latest GP appointment data show?
Attended: 89 per cent
Seen by GP: 44 per cent
Seen by nurse: 22 per cent
Face-to-face appointment: 71 per cent
Phone call appointment: 24 per cent
Same day: 40 per cent
Up to one week wait: 26 per cent
One to two week wait: 13 per cent
Two to four weeks wait 22 per cent
NHS England data for September
‘But current difficulties with access are not the fault of hardworking GPs who are trying their best in increasingly difficult circumstances.
‘It’s worth noting that the majority of patients report a good experience of their GP practice once they’re seen.’
Professor Hawthorne said difficulties accessing GPs is ‘symptomatic of a much bigger problem’. She blamed an ‘intense workload’ and ‘workforce pressures’, as well as a lack of funding and poor workforce planning.
Dr Adam Janjua, a GP in Lancashire who is part of the Rebuild General Practice campaign, said: ‘While the numbers reported by the ONS are small, it isn’t surprising that some patients have had issues accessing their GP.
‘For years, GPs have been telling politicians that we need to rebuild general practice. We want to be able to see our patients and provide the care they need.
‘But decades of neglect have broken the entire system. We don’t have enough doctors to treat our patients.
‘GPs are leaving the profession in droves, and practices are closing all over the UK. We need urgent action and strong commitments now to rebuild the broken system.’
Latest NHS England GP performance data shows there were around 31million appointments in September, of which fewer than four in 10 took place on the same day a patient contacted their practice.
A quarter of patients had to wait up to a week, while 13 per cent waited between seven and 14 days and 22 per cent were seen between a fortnight and a month later.
Of all appointments, seven in 10 were face-to-face, a quarter were over the phone and around two per cent were video calls.
In August, officials confirmed that more than 1,000 GP surgeries would have their telephone systems upgraded by spring to end the ‘8am scramble’ for appointments.
The £240million scheme forms part of the Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan, which will aim to make it easier and quicker for patients to contact their family doctor.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Staff across the NHS are working hard to cope with increased demand and GPs are delivering half a million more appointments each week compared to pre-pandemic – up almost a quarter since the previous year.
‘In line with our commitment to recover access to primary care, the NHS published a plan earlier this year, which includes upgrading telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their general practice while more than 31,000 additional staff have joined GP teams since 2019 to deliver even more appointments.’
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