One in ten patients is waiting at least three weeks to see their GP, new figures show. The monthly data, published for the first time, shows that in October 2.8 million people secured an appointment more than 21 days after seeking it. They included 1.4 million people who saw a doctor four weeks after trying to arrange a consultation.
Every day, around 1 million people see a GP in England, the figures show. The statistics also show that one in twenty patients failed to turn up after making an appointment. The figures, which cover the last year, show a worsening trend. Overall, 10.3 per cent of patients in England faced a wait of three weeks to see their GP in October, a decline since last November, when the figure was 9.4 per cent.
GPs said the figures included patients who needed regular appointments, so were likely to book them well in advance. Four in ten patients got a same day appointment, while two thirds were seen within a week. Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “These figures are concerning, and confirm that more patients are facing longer waits for a GP appointment.”
“The impact of this on patients should not be underestimated: it can be incredibly stressful to face a long wait before getting to see a doctor, quite apart from prolonging the length of time someone has to live with the medical issue that is troubling them,” she added.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Despite the best efforts of GPs and our teams, who are working incredibly hard to deliver more consultations than ever before, our patients are waiting too long to secure a GP appointment. We know this is frustrating for them and their families, and it’s frustrating for GPs and our teams too. “We want to deliver timely care to patients, in the early stages of illness, to avoid conditions getting worse, when they can be both more distressing for patients, and more costly for the NHS.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chairman, said: “This new data will become an important resource, and although only providing a limited snapshot of the total work that GPs and their teams do, it now provides clear evidence of the huge amount they are doing, booking more than a million appointments a day.
“The largest proportion of these appointments are made and attended on the same day, and the majority of patients are seen within a week of booking – showing that, despite rising demand, that general practice is offering a high quality and timely service to patients within their community. Many other patients will be appropriately booking ahead as part of the continuity of care they receive for long-term conditions and complex problems that need regular support.”
The figures suggest Mondays are the busiest days for GPs, with the most patient appointments. They also show the slow rise of attempts to use video and online to provide access to patients around the clock. Figures for October suggest that across the whole country, on some days as few as 11 such appointments took place. The statistics show that across England around 6,000 online and video appointments typically take place on Mondays – dropping to between 11 and 21 on Sundays. Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, has repeatedly urged the NHS to do more to introduce such methods, saying every patients should be offered online consultations.
Earlier this year, the Royal College of GPs raised fears that patients could increasingly walk away from the NHS because of long waiting times.
- 1 million people see a GP in England every day
- 11 – the number of online or video appointments which took place on one Sunday in October
- 2.8 million people a month see a GP at least three weeks after booking their appointment
- 1 in 20 patients fail to turn up to their appointment
- 10 million – the number of patients a month who get same-day appointments