According to a survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one in 10 Brits were unable to reach their GP surgery last month. This figure, which was based on a poll of 4,984 households, translates to approximately 2.8 million people each month. Additionally, the data revealed that three in 10 individuals found it difficult to make contact with their practice. Experts attribute these challenges to the intense workload and workforce pressures within the general practice system.
The survey, conducted between October 18 and 29, found that 53 percent of respondents had contacted their practice in the last month. Among this group, 65 percent received a response from their GP on the same day, while 10 percent had to wait until the following day and 15 percent eventually spoke to their practice two or more days later. Furthermore, one in five individuals reported that contacting their practice was difficult, with 10 percent describing it as very difficult.
In terms of appointment availability, 45 percent of respondents were able to secure an appointment within two weeks, while 16 percent had to wait longer. Additionally, 16 percent received the help they needed over the phone, and two percent called the NHS non-emergency helpline, 111. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, acknowledged the frustrations and concerns of patients who have difficulty accessing services. She emphasized that the current difficulties are not the fault of hardworking GPs, but rather a symptom of larger issues such as intense workload, workforce pressures, inadequate funding, and poor workforce planning.
Dr. Adam Janjua, a GP in Lancashire and member of the Rebuild General Practice campaign, expressed that while the numbers reported by the ONS are small, it is not surprising that some patients face challenges accessing their GP. He highlighted the need to rebuild general practice, as the system has been neglected for decades, resulting in a shortage of doctors and the closure of practices across the UK. Dr. Janjua called for urgent action and strong commitments to address these issues.
The latest NHS England GP performance data for September revealed that out of approximately 31 million appointments, less 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 percent waited between seven and 14 days, and 22 percent were seen between a fortnight and a month later. Face-to-face appointments accounted for 70 percent of all appointments, phone calls made up 25 percent, and video calls accounted for approximately two percent.
To improve access to primary care, the UK government has allocated £240 million to upgrade telephone systems in over 1,000 GP surgeries by spring. This initiative is part of the Primary Care Recovery Plan, which aims to make it easier and faster for patients to contact their family doctor. An NHS England spokesperson acknowledged the increased demand on the healthcare system and highlighted the efforts being made to recover access to primary care. They mentioned the plan to upgrade telephone systems and the addition of over 31,000 staff members to GP teams since 2019 to accommodate more appointments.
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