Guest post by Ahmet Öcal
In the modern world, one of the most crucial aspects that has elevated our civilisation is access to healthcare. The difference in life expectancy compared to the times of our great-grandparents is substantial, affording us the opportunity to prevent serious medical conditions. However, a recent study from 2022 has revealed that a quarter of patients living in England were unable to secure an appointment with a GP. How long does it take to see a GP in London? Let’s find out!
Numbers Reveal the Truth
We all hold the belief that access to healthcare is a fundamental right, providing us with an opportunity to prevent serious medical conditions when detected in their early stages. Regular checkups play a pivotal role in the prevention of cancer or its early discovery.
However, upon analysing the NHS England GP patient survey from 2022, it becomes apparent that easy access to GP services is, in fact, a myth. Shockingly, 15% of patients were unable to secure an appointment, representing a 10% increase from the previous year’s reported figures. To compound the issue, only half of the patients managed to secure an appointment at a suitable time for them.
When the process of making an appointment is rated, a staggering 26% of patients describe it as poor (14% in 2021), with only 53% of patients being able to get through on the phone easily (68% last year). The falling satisfaction level of patients leads to serious consequences, leaving people with potential serious medical issues without help.
How long will you wait for the GP appointment?
The answer to the question of how long you will wait to make an appointment with a GP varies depending on the part of the country. According to NHS England figures, in London, around 12.1% of people waited more than two weeks for an appointment. In other parts of England, one in 15 people (6.7%) has to wait more than a month. Some of the patients need to wait for even 18 weeks, which explains why, in October 2022, more than 7 million people had to wait for their treatment.
The problem gets even bigger when it comes to getting a referral into secondary care. When the number of unsuccessful trials of making appointments to use a consultant-led service is checked, we see that the number reached over 400,000 patients.
What are the causes and effects of the delay?
One of the most important causes of the present delays in making GP appointments is COVID. Even though the virus is much less powerful nowadays, its side effects are still experienced by lots of patients. Together with the fact that doctors didn’t see patients with other non-covid problems for two years, the queue of patients who avoided GP appointments gets longer and longer each month.
GPs cannot be blamed for the situation, as they are all understaffed and overworked. The proof is the satisfaction of those who managed to see their GPs, even though in 2022 only 72.4% of them described the experience as positive. Over 90% of patients still trust the healthcare professionals, which means patients don’t blame the GPs themselves but understand the issues arising from the NHS negligence.
What steps may be taken to improve the situation?
The situation where millions of patients are left unattended with their medical issues is unacceptable and requires further steps to prevent harm to patients. This is where NAO comes into action, with its report showing how health care is working under difficult circumstances. Their assistance is aimed at helping the NHS manage and improve waiting times, not to scare patients.