Patients Forced To Wait For Doctors' Appointments

People Wanting To See Their Doctor May Need To Wait As Long As A Week

29.09.2014

British people are being forced to wait up to a week for an appointment with their doctor and are concerned that strain on the NHS could put them in danger, according to new figures.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and ComRes carried out a poll and discovered that 65 per cent of respondents are worried about their GP's workload being a threat to standard of care.

Furthermore, only 23 per cent believe there are enough doctors available to cope with the demands from an ageing population and other challenges.

Indeed, it is estimated that 40,100 full-time equivalent GPs are needed in England alone to meet patient demand, but there are currently only 32,075 - and more than 1,000 a year will be leaving the profession by 2022.

This means that this year, there are likely to be 60 million occasions when people cannot get an appointment with their GP or practice nurse within a week. 

Chair of the RCGP Dr Maureen Baker said: "Every patient should be able to get an appointment with their GP or practice nurse when they want and need one, and GPs are working harder than ever to try and meet the demand.  But these devastating statistics show that waiting times are now a national disgrace and that the situation is set to get even worse."

She pointed out that many patients may be deciding not to bother seeking treatment if they cannot get an appointment when they need it, which could result in vital opportunities to treat dangerous illnesses being missed.

The news comes after it was discovered that thousands of people are waiting too long to begin treatment for cancer. The NHS target is 62 days or less between referral and seeing a consultant for 85 per cent of those needing it, but only 84.1 per cent of patients were seen within this timeframe in the first quarter of 2014-15.

Expert Opinion
The quality of care and treatment received by patients should always be a top priority for medical professionals, which means ensuring people have access to the medical care they need at all times. The fact that so many patients are being forced to wait a week to see a doctor in their local area is a serious concern. A lack of resources means that some people are travelling to hospital for treatment, even though their complaint may be better suited to treatment from a GP.

“We hope that the findings of this report are taken into account and investigated, with any measures to improve the availability of appointments at GP surgeries implemented as soon as possible. We have seen the serious implications a lack of access to medical treatment can have on patients, with conditions worsening and in some cases deaths occurring as people wait for treatment. It is vital action is taken to reassure patients that they will be able to access treatment from their GP when they need it.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner