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Millions of patients wait more than three weeks for GP appointment

Increasing numbers of patients are waiting over three weeks to get a GP appointment, with 11 million having done so since the Prime Minister pledged to end the delays.

A total of 11.3 million patients have waited more than 21 days to see a GP since July, when Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister that he would put a stop to three-week waiting times.

According to an investigation by The Times, NHS Digital figures show that within the 11 million, 5.6 million patients waited over a month.

The figures also reveal October 2019 had the highest number on record of patients waiting more than 21 days for a GP appointment.

Over three million patients (3.3m) waited over 21 days in October – a 16% rise from the same time in 2018. Almost half of those (1.6m) waited more than four weeks.

GP leaders have warned this comes as GPs are leaving the profession, noting the ‘ever-increasing’ patient demand.

Both the BMA and the RCGP have urged the Government to deliver on their promises to hire 6,000 GPs given the increasing number of doctors leaving the profession.

Data from NHS Digital shows the proportion of patients getting a same-day GP appointment, or the next day or one within a week has declined since records began.

Additionally, the number of patients waiting over a week, two weeks, over three weeks or more than a month has increased.

Data shows one in 20 patients wait over a month for an appointment – two years ago it was one in 25.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These figures come amid a backdrop of falling GP numbers as, despite their best efforts, many practices simply do not have the capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand.’

He added: ‘While the creation of primary care networks should facilitate more patients being seen, we need more fundamental changes if we are to create a sustainable primary care service for patients in the long term.

‘Ultimately, this Government needs to tackle the root of the problem including stopping experienced family doctors leaving the profession or reducing their hours, tackling rising workloads, modernising premises and addressing the punitive pension regulations.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘It is totally unacceptable to expect patients to wait weeks for a GP appointment. Patients - and GPs - deserve better.

‘However, the situation in which we find ourselves has not happened overnight, and the College has been sounding the alarm bells for many years.’

He continued: ‘We hope that the new Government will take this seriously and that it will deliver quickly on its General Election manifesto pledge of 6,000 additional GPs and many more thousands of the wider general practice team.

‘Over 1m patients are seen in general practice every day, and GPs are doing their best but the service cannot keep stretching. There are limits beyond which GPs can no longer guarantee safe care to patients and the potential for error or misdiagnosis increases.’

Readers' comments (17)

  • ‘While the creation of primary care networks should facilitate more patients being seen...’ - what nonsense, will barely make any impression; our leaders have to stop spouting this nonsense as it raises expectations that can’t be met. PCNs are not the solution - better investment in the core contract is. The only way we are going to recruit 6k more GPs is by improving the terms and conditions we work under - and that means a large investment in the core contract and better paid and supported GPs.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Primary care network
    just a means to further spread thin the service.. share services between practices rather than have dedicated services at one practice..
    let the illusion of service continue
    1. A+E says avoid here .. ambulance cues and long waits above 4 hours
    2. NHS dIRECT SAYS .. See own gp tomorrow
    3. Ambulance says see gp next day
    3. GP ..
    - ring on the day in the morning
    - no appt for 3 weeks

    ROUND AND ROUND WE GO ..

    New appts vs follow up appts
    Follow ups I hope are getting seen at appropriate times

    Its no fun for GP'S either when you or your family member is unwell

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  • Where's Optimus?

    What is "gp at hands" waiting time ...
    or are they all easily dealt with
    with a prescription
    without being physically seen ?

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  • I don't understand this : according to patients in south wales, they can only have an appointment on the same day, as Practices are telling them that the government has forbidden them to give any advance appointments, leave alone at 3 weeks!

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  • I don't see how one can expect to "facilitate more patients being seen" by forcing remaining GPs to spend more time away from clinical practice doing things for which we aren't trained while increasing numbers walk away in the wake of the latest proposals (by those who can't possibly work as GPs) to redefine and micromanage primary care. Layer upon layer of complication with every change making conditions worse is no solution.

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  • If only our so called leaders realize this Rosie. Some turncoats are justifying their job as it is far too hard to see patients.

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  • Cobblers

    'There are limits beyond which GPs can no longer guarantee safe care to patients and the potential for error or misdiagnosis increases.’

    I think we are at that limit. The media are becoming aware of near miss incidents or deaths.

    If GPs started opening private centres and charging they would be surprised at the demand.

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  • Not convincing. Patients turn to 111 and are seen by OOH service.

    Concept of OOH service has gone, the service now operates as multi GP practice, home visits service, everything and anything that has not been done in the day time including getting a news paper from corner store because the carer forgot to bring one.

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  • and this is news because????

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  • No bothered no my problem I can only see so many patients a day and PCNs will not increase this.I expect access to decrease as an accelerating exodus continues.

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