Patients are waiting an average of more than two weeks to see their GP, a new survey shows.
A poll of UK doctors conducted by Pulse, a publication for GPs, found that the average waiting time is now almost 15 days.
Just over 900 GPs were surveyed and 22% said patients had to wait more than three weeks for a routine appointment and 6% said it took more than four weeks until they could see a patient.
However, 20% said the average waiting time was less than a week.
Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair at doctors’ union the British Medical Association said the figures showed “the reality of the capacity issues that many GP practices across the country are facing”.
He added: “GPs’ number one priority is treating their patients and they work incredibly hard to do so, often outside of their contracted hours in practices that are understaffed.
“What is clear however, is that despite the best efforts of practices, patient demand is continuing to grow and with it the rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, said the figures were “shocking but not surprising”.
He added: “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.”
The government said the GP poll was a “small fraction” of those in the occupation and that NHS data shows two in three appointments take place within seven days of booking.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care added that the government is “determined to reduce GP waiting times further”.
The survey comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to cut waiting times but Dr Vautrey said the “much-needed” rise in GP numbers had yet to be seen.
Earlier this year, NHS England said extra funds agreed at the end of January included £1.8bn for 20,000 more specialist health care staff and Dr Vautrey described this as a “positive step forward”.
But as well as recruiting more medical professionals, the other challenge is retaining the ones who are already there.
Four in 10 doctors want to quit because of their workload and low morale, according to a study by the University of Warwick.
It has been estimated by health experts at The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation that GP shortages in England would almost triple to 7,000 by 2023/24 if action is not taken.
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