The Lib Dems are calling on health secretary Steve Barclay to launch ‘a GP rescue plan’ over the summer, including a campaign ‘to urge retired GPs back to the workforce’.
One in six GP appointments over the past year involved waits of two weeks or more, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has shown.
The data from the House of Common Library showed the length of time between when a GP appointment was booked and when it took place, covering the year to May 2023.
It showed that 16.5% of GP appointments in England took place more than two weeks after booking and almost one in twenty (4.8%) GP appointments in May involved waits of at least four weeks, up from 3.3% in the same month last year.
The party said that the analysis showed every area in the country except one has seen the proportion of four-week waits go up compared to last year.
The party is now calling for ‘a new right for patients to see a GP within a week’, or within 24 hours ‘if in urgent need’, and said that this would be achieved by increasing the number of GPs by 8,000.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: ‘The Conservative government’s neglect of our local health services is having real consequences for so many. People unable to get a GP appointment are being left waiting in pain, anxious about when they will get the care they deserve.
‘Conservative ministers must listen for once and come up with a plan to tackle the GP crisis before Parliament returns. That should include a recruitment campaign over the summer to encourage retired GPs back to work.
‘Ministers should also back the Liberal Democrat plan to guarantee everyone a GP appointment within seven days for a first appointment, or 24 hours if it’s urgent. Anything less would be failing patients up and down the country.’
Last week, Mr Davey called on the Government to launch a review of access to GPs in rural areas, led by the CQC.
This would report back with recommendations on ‘how to narrow the gap between GP waiting times in rural and urban areas’.
He said: ‘Far too many people are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one, leaving them worried or waiting in pain for the treatment they need.
‘Rural areas are being particularly impacted by long GP waiting times hurting families and piling pressure on other NHS services.
‘The Government needs to launch an urgent review into the lack of access to GPs in rural communities and act to end yet another example of health inequality.’
Lib Dems also tabled a bill aimed at forcing the Government to ‘come clean about their failures’ and end the ‘crises’ facing general practice and dentistry.
Earlier this year, the party claimed patients in England are being ‘rushed’ through their GP appointments.
GP appointment waits in rural areas
- In Gloucestershire, one in ten (9.7%) GP appointments involved waits of four weeks or more.
- This was followed by Sheffield (9.5%), Derby and Derbyshire (8.6%), Dorset (8.3%) and the East Riding of Yorkshire (8.2%).
- Others in the bottom ten include rural areas such as Norfolk and Waveney, West Leicestershire and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- Liverpool and North Central London both had the fewest four-week waits, making up fewer than one in fifty (1.8%) GP appointments.
Source: Lib Dems
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