A survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that approximately 2.8 million people in the UK failed to make contact with their GP surgery last month, equating to 10% of the population. The poll, which gathered responses from 4,984 households, also found that three in 10 Brits experienced difficulty in getting through to their practice.
Experts have attributed the challenges to the "intense workload and workforce pressures" faced by general practice professionals. The survey results are not surprising to them. The study further revealed that 53% of respondents had reached out to their practice within the last month.
Out of those who managed to contact their GP, 65% received a same-day response, while 10% received a response the following day. However, 15% had to wait two or more days to connect with their practice. Around 20% of respondents described contacting their practice as "difficult," with an additional 10% finding the process "very difficult."
Furthermore, 45% of patients were able to secure an appointment within two weeks, while 16% had to wait longer. Two percent of individuals resorted to calling the NHS helpline (111) for assistance. The survey results underscore the need for urgent action and stronger commitments to address the strain on the general practice system.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, emphasized that GPs are working hard in difficult circumstances, and the current access issues are symptomatic of a larger problem. She attributed the difficulties to an "intense workload," "workforce pressures," inadequate funding, and poor workforce planning.
The latest data from NHS England's GP performance report revealed that less than four in 10 appointments in September took place on the same day of contact. A quarter of patients had to wait up to a week for an appointment, while 35% waited between one and four weeks.
Acknowledging the challenges, NHS England announced a £240 million scheme to upgrade telephone systems in over 1,000 GP surgeries by spring. This initiative aims to alleviate the pressure on appointments and facilitate easier access to primary care services.
The spokesperson for NHS England highlighted the efforts of staff to manage increased demand and mentioned that GP teams have seen a significant increase in appointments. They reaffirmed the commitment to recover access to primary care, including the recruitment of over 31,000 additional staff since 2019.