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Over half of GPs have said the average waiting time for non-urgent appointments at their practice is now over two weeks.
A recent survey from Pulse found that the average waiting time was almost 15 days, with more than one in five of the 901 GPs who responded saying that the wait for a routine appointment exceeded three weeks, while more than one in 20 said it was more than four weeks.
Doctors’ leaders claim that GPs are overworked and stressed, leading more to exit the profession or reduce their hours, which only exacerbates the problem.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “After years of Tory cuts and falling GP numbers it’s shocking, but unsurprising, that patients are now waiting longer than two weeks on average to see a GP. Whether it’s for surgery, in bursting A&Es, for cancer treatment or now in general practice, patients are facing unacceptably long waits. The truth is, as Boris Johnson’s senior adviser confirmed, the Tories simply don’t care about the NHS and can’t be trusted with it.”
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to – and the fact that this is becoming increasingly difficult is frustrating for GPs and our teams, as we know it is for them. When patients need to see a GP or member of the practice team urgently, we are working incredibly hard to ensure they can get access – and this is reflected in the most recent NHS figures. But people are waiting too long for routine appointments, and the concern is that non-serious conditions might deteriorate, or patient's give up trying to see the GP and we miss signs of serious illness early when it could be dealt with simply and more cost-effectively in primary care.
"The RCGP has long been raising the alarm about escalating resource and workforce pressures in general practice, and the negative impact this is having on our patients. GPs and our teams are making more consultations than ever before – more than a million a day across the UK – but as our population grows and more people present with multiple conditions, we desperately need more GPs and more time to give our patients the care they deserve.
"We have had some very welcome promises of investment in our service and more GPs and members of the practice team across the four nations of the UK - these must be delivered urgently and in full, or waiting times will get worse, ultimately jeopardising the care we are able to deliver for patients."