According to the chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Maureen Baker, patients are running the risk of potentially serious illnesses going undetected because of unacceptable delays with GP appointments. The current appointment delays experienced by many are a “national disgrace”, says Dr Baker.
Figures recently published by the NHS from their six month long survey of GP practices in England show that 1 in 6 patients are having to wait a week or more for an appointment with their practice nurse or GP. By the end of the year, as many as 58.9 million patients in England alone will have endured a wait of seven days or more to see their doctor, an increase of almost 50% on the people who waited a week or more in 2013.
Dr Baker painted a gloomy picture for the future, and said she expected lengthy waiting times to get even worse in 2015. She said the “devastating” statistics from the NHS England survey proved that there are just not enough family doctors in the UK, and that doctors simply cannot cope with the rising demand for appointments. Baker’s conclusion was the people who are suffering are the patients.
Another survey, led by the RCGP, found that out of the 1,001 people surveyed, half of them agreed with the College’s opinion that GP waiting times are a “national disgrace”. 29 people said they had been asked to wait over a week the last time they had asked for a GP appointment, and less than a quarter of respondents felt that there were enough GPs to cope with a growing and ageing population.
In 2013, 47 million patients had to wait a week or more to see their doctor, and numbers have risen sharply since then. Delays in getting an appointment are being blamed on a perceived shortage of GPs to cope with increasing demand. According to the RCGP, deteriorating working conditions will mean that as many as 1,000 GPs will be hanging up their stethoscopes for good by 2022. They also say that the number of unfilled GP vacancies has gone up fourfold since 2010.
In the middle of 2011, only 13% of patients were waiting a week to see their GP. This had risen to 14% by the end of 2012, 15% by the middle of 2013, and 16% by July this year, according to the GP surveys.
There’s been plenty of controversy in recent years about the high number of medical negligence claims being made and the cost of that to the NHS. It is hardly surprising that more mistakes are made when patients simply aren’t being seen quickly enough. Shorter waiting times for patients to see their own is surely one of the answers to cutting down on the high number of claims for medical negligence compensation – not putting barriers in the way of patients whose health has been compromised by negligent medical professional.
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