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‘Millions’ unable to get GP appointments

19 December 2013

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As many as 1.88 million people in the last year alone have visited A&E because they couldn’t get a GP appointment, a survey suggests. 

The online survey of over 2,000 British adults, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Network Locum, found more than a third (34%) of people who asked for an appointment as soon as possible had to wait for over 48 hours to be seen and 4% admitted going to A&E as they weren’t able to get a GP appointment in the last 12 months. 

With the average A&E visit costing the NHS £88, this desperate measure may have unnecessarily cost the NHS as much as £120 million in a single year.

The survey findings also suggest that the lack of GP appointments could put people off visiting their local doctor altogether, particularly women. 

 – Just over one in six (18%) female respondents put off booking an appointment because they were worried that they would be wasting their GP’s time.

 – A quarter of women (25%) also admitted that they had stored up a number of concerns to discuss in one GP visit.

 – Just over one in 10 people (13%) ‘self-diagnosed’ and bought available medication in a pharmacy because they could not get a doctor’s appointment.

Anita Nathan, a practising GP in London, said: “I am concerned that so many people are putting off seeing their GP and would urge them to make best use of consultations to serve their needs. It’s not in a patient’s interest to store up problems for a future consultation and it’s hard for us to be thorough when there are too many concerns. We need to make sure that all patients feel that GP practices and doctors are approachable so we don’t miss any potentially serious diagnoses.

“An end to some of the unnecessary bureaucracy which takes up 10 per cent of a typical GP’s day, such as admin errors and refaxing of referrals, could free up valuable time to reach the people who need us that we might otherwise miss.”