Younger adults under the age of 35 more than twice as likely to report being unable to get a GP appointment than pensioners, according to a Citizens Advice Bureau report that claims younger patients are generally less satisfied with GP services than older groups of patients.
Based on NHS GP patient survey data, the report found 14% of people in the age groups 18-24 and 25-34 years said they were unable to get a GP appointment or speak to a healthcare professional, compared with 6% of people aged 65-74 years and around 4% of people aged 75 and over.
And one in ten under-35s said the appointment time offered was ‘not very convenient’ – compared with around one in 50 people aged 65 and over.
Younger groups were more likely to go to A&E or a walk-in centre than older patients if they could not get a GP appointment, with 13% of 25-34 year-olds taking these alternative routes compared with around 6% of people aged 55 and older.
It concluded: ‘Overall, younger patients are less satisfied with the service they received from GPs than people aged 35 years and over.’
Citizens Advice said that the results were not a criticism of GPs, but said policymakers needed to make it easier for younger patients to access health care in the community.
It noted that many walk-in centres have closed in recent years – but welcomed plans to offer patients the opportunity to register outside of their practice’s catchment area under the Government’s ‘out-of-area registration’ scheme.
The scheme was due to start in January, but the GPC has called for a delay to the roll-out because of patient safety fears.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘GP services need to keep up with 21st century lifestyles. Long working hours means it can be difficult for younger adults to get an appointment with a GP, let alone one at a convenient time. As a result some people are struggling to access the medical advice they need.
‘It is in the NHS’s interest to get primary healthcare for younger adults right and ensure services fit around busy working lives. A failure to meet their needs piles more pressure on budgets and is an inefficient use of scarce NHS resources.’
Responding to the report, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC said cuts to GP services, difficulties recruiting staff and fragmentation of urgent care services were making it impossible for GPs to cope with current demands, and called for more investment.
Dr Vautrey said: ‘Both day-time and out-of-hours services have seen funding cut, and are increasingly struggling to recruit new GPs, at the same time as demand for appointments has been increasing. The problems with NHS 111 and the confusing fragmentation of urgent care services have also made things worse rather than better.
‘With demand for appointments rising and more care being delivered in the community, the system is struggling to keep up. We desperately need more GPs and investment in services if general practice can deliver the care patients need, when they need it and keep up with the sheer number of patients coming through the door.’