Embargoed until 00.01 Tuesday 18 July 2023
Figures reveal stark rise in people waiting four weeks or more for a GP appointment
Worst areas in the country for four-week waits include Gloucestershire, Dorset and East Suffolk
Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey calls for official review into access to GPs in rural areas led by Care Quality Commission
There were 1.3 million waits of four weeks or more for a GP appointment in May, new analysis commissioned by the LiberalDemocrats has revealed, up from 912,000 in the same month last year.
The House of Commons Library research is based on NHS data showing the length of time between when a GP appointment was booked and when it took place. It reveals the areas with the highest proportion of four week waits for a GP appointment, with predominantly rural counties such as Gloucestershire and Dorset among the worst hit.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will today call on the government to launch a review of access to GPs in rural areas, led by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This would report back with recommendations on how to narrow the gap between GP waiting times in rural and urban areas.
Almost one in twenty (4.8%) GP appointments in May 2023 involved waits of at least four weeks, up from 3.3% in the same month last year. Every area in the country except one has seen the proportion of four-week waits go up compared to last year.
The worst hit local area was Gloucestershire, where a staggering one in ten (9.5%) GP appointments involved waits of four weeks or more. This was followed by Sheffield (9.5%), Derby and Derbyshire (8.6%), Dorset (8.3%) and the East Riding of Yorkshire (8.2%).
Others in the bottom ten include rural areas such as Norfolk and Waveney, West Leicestershire and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Liverpool and North Central London both had the fewest four-week waits, making up fewer than one in fifty (1.8%) GP appointments.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right for patients to see a GP within a week, or within 24 hours if in urgent need. This would be achieved by increasing the number of GPs by 8,000.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
“Far too many people are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one, leaving them worried or waiting in pain for the treatment they need.
“The Conservatives have let down communities across the country by failing to recruit the extra GPs they promised..
“Rural areas are being particularly impacted by long GP waiting times hurting families and piling pressure on other NHS services. The government needs to launch an urgent review into the lack of access to GPs in rural communities and act to end yet another example of health inequality.
“Ministers should also back Liberal Democrat proposals to give everyone the legal right to an appointment within a week, or within 24 hours if in urgent need.”
Notes to Editor
Full House of Commons Library Research can be found here.
Original Source: NHS - Appointments in General Practice
Note from Library: This measure is not a direct indicator of waiting times for GP appointments. It measures the time between when the appointment was booked and when it took place. This might partly reflect patient preference as well as enforced waits. It also only measures appointments that were booked, so if an appointment was refused for being too far in the future, that wouldn’t be recorded here. The figures also do not show the number of people who tried to get to book an appointment and failed.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a review into access to primary care in rural areas, led by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This would be based on similar reports carried out in the past by the CQC including a 2018 report into urgent primary care services.
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for a new right to see a GP within 7 days to be enshrined in the NHS Constitution, putting a duty on the Government and the NHS to ensure it happens. This would be achieved by increasing the number of GPs by 8,000, through boosting training places, improving retention and launching a campaign to encourage retired doctors and British trained doctors working abroad to return to practice in the NHS. Our approach would take account of appointments intentionally outside the target due for example to expressed patient preference or medical needs.
At the last election, the Conservative Party promised 6,000 more GPs – but the number of qualified GPs has actually fallen by more than 900 since then.