More than eleven million people have spent longer than three weeks waiting for a GP appointment in the last five months, it has been revealed.
The length of time is significant because on the day when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister he promised “my job is to make sure you don’t have to wait three weeks to see your GP. “The numbers peaked in October when 3.3 million people faced three-week waits, according to the Sunday Times.
The Department of Health and Social Care says it intends to create an extra 50 million appointments a year within five years, helping to reduce waiting times.
But Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “These figures come amid a backdrop of falling GP numbers because, despite their best efforts, many practices simply do not have the capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand.”
Royal College of GPs Professor Martin Marshall said: “It is totally unacceptable to expect patients to wait weeks for a GP appointment. Patients -and GPs – deserve better. However, the situation in which we find ourselves has not happened overnight, and the College has been sounding the alarm bells for many years. “Whilst workload in general practice has escalated in terms of volume and complexity, successive governments have failed to invest sufficiently in the family doctor service in order to keep pace with demand, and one consequence is that we now have a worrying shortage of GPs.
“We hope that the new Government will take this seriously and that it will deliver quickly on its General Election manifesto pledge of 6,000 additional GPs and many more thousands of the wider general practice team.”
He added: “There is also the risk that long waiting times for a GP appointment will deter some patients from seeing a GP at all, which could mean they seek help at a much later stage when the problem is much more serious. Pressure of workload is taking its toll on the health and wellbeing of GPs themselves. For too many, the job has become untenable, with the result that they are burning out and leaving the profession before their time.”
The government spokesperson said: “Since July there have been over 100m GP appointments and the latest NHS figures show 40% of all appointments take place on the same day they are booked — but we are determined to reduce waiting times even further. By expanding the workforce and giving GPs the support they need, we will create an extra 50m appointments a year within five years, backed by an extra £4.5 billion for primary and community care by 2023-24.”