An annual survey shows that in England, 20% of people must wait at least seven days to see a doctor, with many unable to get an appointment at all. Statistics show that the number of patients waiting over a week to see their GP has risen by 56% in the last five years.
When they cannot access their GP, those who need to seek medical advice will often turn to Accident and Emergency departments instead. However, many are failing to attend any appointment at all because of the difficulty in accessing primary care services.
In response to this, the government has called for GP practices to extend their opening hours at evenings and weekends to alleviate the growing pressure on emergency departments. However there have been concerns that this could lead to doctors being overworked, as well as being unable to take sufficient time during consultations, which could put patients at risk.
There are a number of potential causes for the increasing pressure on GP surgeries. For example, there are now one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago and as a result, GP surgeries have been struggling to keep up with the often complex healthcare needs of the older generation.
In addition, GP surgeries have been closing across the country, forcing the remaining to merge and take on the strain of more patients. Last year, a Freedom of Information request revealed that 58 practices closed completely, whilst another 34 surgeries had to close due to practice mergers.
All these concerning statistics highlight the difficulties in ensuring that patients can access the care they need at the right time and also ensuring that the resources are available to properly assess and treat patients.
If you believe you or a family member has been injured as a result of a poor standard of care from your GP, please contact Carolyn Lowe, Partner, on 01856 781 019 / firstname.lastname@example.org, for a free discussion about your options.