The majority (84.8%) of the population in England is estimated to live within 20 minutes walk of a GP premises. This is lower (81.2%) in the most affluent areas, and higher (98.2%) in the most deprived areas, 94.2% in urban and 19.4% in rural areas, new research has found.
Commenting on the report Access all Areas? An area-level analysis of accessibility to General Practice and Community Pharmacy services in England by urbanity and social deprivation, Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is also encouraging to see that patients living in areas of deprivation have easier than average access to their GP – and even easier access to a community pharmacy, where they can receive advice about medicines, and how to manage minor ailments.
“However, access to a local surgery is one thing – being able to see a GP is another… GPs and our teams are currently making 370m patient consultations a year – 70m more than we were five years ago – yet the general practice workforce has remained relatively stagnant. The current workforce is also ageing, and as more GPs approach retirement age, our own research has shown that more than 500 practices are under threat of closure,” she said.
The report suggests a possible solution to this problem could be the integration of community pharmacies and GP practices, which may give patients better access, as at present, the current waiting time for a non-urgent GP appointment is approximately 9 days. Previous research also suggests that for some services, due to the ease of access, community pharmacies are patients preferred location if possible, the report said.
“We also look forward to working with the new government to explore different ways of working, such as pharmacists working as part of the practice team, and new models of care, such as practices working together in federations to pool resources in order to deliver more and better services to patients, wherever they live,” Baker said.
The report was created by Adam Todd, Alison Copeland, Andy Husband, Adetayo Kasimand Clare Bambra.