GP postcode lottery: 80% increase in four-week long waits in some areas

2 Apr 2024

Embargoed until 22.30 Monday 1st April 

  • Vale of York sees 80% increase in four-week long waits for GP appointments in 2023 compared to the previous year

  • Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will warn the government has “failed to get a grip on this GP crisis” on a campaign visit to Chippenham

  • Almost one in ten patients waited four weeks for a GP appointment last year in worst hit areas including Gloucestershire, Sheffield and Dorset

Some areas of the country saw a shocking 80% rise in the number of four-week waits for a GP appointment last year, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The House of Commons Library analysis looks at NHS data measuring the time between when a GP appointment was booked and when it took place, broken down by local NHS areas (sub-Integrated Care Boards) across England. Every single local area in the country saw a rise in 4-week GP waits in 2023 compared to the previous year. The Vale of York saw a staggering 79% increase in GP waits of 4 weeks or more, the highest in the country.  Bury saw a 74% increase in 4-week waits, East Leicestershire and Rutland saw a 69% jump, and Blackpool a 68% increase. In the Prime Minister’s own backyard of North Yorkshire, there was a 56% rise in 4-week GP waits compared to the previous year.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will today (Tuesday 2nd April) use a campaign visit to Michelle Donelan's constituency of Chippenham in Wiltshire to warn that the Conservative government has “failed to get a grip on this GP crisis” and is leaving patients in limbo. The Lib Dems are calling for patients to be given a legal right to see their GP within seven days or 24-hours if in urgent need. It comes after a survey by the King’s Fund last week found only a third of people are satisfied with GP services, the lowest since records began in 1983. Since 2019, satisfaction with GP services has fallen by 34 percentage points.

The Commons Library research found that across England, the number of four-week waits for a GP appointment soared to 17.6 million, up 38% from 12.8 million the previous year. It means one in twenty (5.1%) of GP appointments last year involved waits of four weeks or more. In some parts of the country the proportion of patients waiting four-weeks or more to see their GP is almost double the national average. Gloucestershire was the worst in the country with close to one in 10 (9.4%) GP appointments involving waits of over a month in 2023, up from 6.8% the previous year. This was followed by Derby and Derbyshire (9.4%), Sheffield (9.3%) and Dorset (8.7%). 

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“These soaring GP waits show a grim postcode lottery, with communities being abandoned when it comes to local health services. Far too many people are being left in limbo, waiting for weeks on end to get a GP appointment when they need one.

“This Conservative government has neglected local health services for far too long. Their failure to get a grip on this GP crisis is causing huge anxiety for families right across the country.

“It should not be too much to ask to be able to see a GP when you need to. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right for patients to get a GP appointment within seven days or 24-hours if in urgent need.”


Notes to Editors

The data from the House of Commons Library can be found here. The NHS data measures the time between when the appointment was booked and when it took place. 

Source: This data based on analysis of the underlying data from NHS Digital’s Appointments in General Practice December 2023publication. 

King’s Fund - Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care in 2023 can be found here.

Notes from the Commons Library

This data measures the time between booking and the appointment taking place. This includes cases where the patient requested a particular date, so it is not a direct measure of “waiting times”.

The data includes all appointments in general practice (including those with e.g. nurses or other staff).

The overall increase in the number of GP appointments in England is important background context for the data. The overall number of appointments in England was nearly 20 million higher in 2023 than in 2022 (+6%). Column Q in the main data table shows the percentage increase for each sub-ICB location.

The percentages exclude the small number of appointments for which the time between booking and appointment is not known.




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