Number of 4-week waits for appointments rises 42% in just one year

The GP will see you… next month! Number of 4-week waits for appointments rises 42% in just one year – so how does YOUR area fare?

  • 1 in 10 patients in some parts of England wait 4 weeks to see their family doctor
  • READ MORE: Up to one in 8 patients have waited over a year for NHS treatment 

Four-week waits for GP appointments are becoming more common, analysis of NHS data suggests.

About 1.3million consultations in May were booked at least 28 days earlier, according to a report published by the Liberal Democrats.

This was 42 per cent higher than the 912,000 in May 2022. 

Overall, almost 5 per cent of GP appointments, or one in 20, were booked at least four weeks earlier.

But in parts of England this rose to almost one in 10 patients.  

This map shows the 10 areas with the highest proportion of GP appointments held 4 weeks after they were first booked. Gloucestershire recorded the highest proportion at 9.7 per cent. This was followed by Sheffield (9.5 per cent), the combined Derby and Derbyshire area (8.6 per cent) and Dorset (8.3 per cent)

Gloucestershire recorded the highest proportion at 9.7 per cent.

This was followed by Sheffield (9.5 per cent), the combined Derby and Derbyshire area (8.6 per cent) and Dorset (8.3 per cent).

Liverpool and North Central London both had the fewest four-week waits, with only 1.8 per cent of GP appointments, about one in 50, booked much earlier.

The Lib Dems is calling on the Government to review GP access in rural areas on the back of the data.

Sir Ed Davey, the party’s leader, said: ‘Far too many people are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one, leaving them worried or waiting in pain for the treatment they need.

This pie charts breaks down when GP appointments in England were held compared to when they were booked for May 2023, the latest available data

‘The Conservatives have let down communities across the country by failing to recruit the extra GPs they promised.

‘Rural areas are being particularly impacted by long GP waiting times hurting families and piling pressure on other NHS services.

‘The Government needs to launch an urgent review into the lack of access to GPs in rural communities and act to end yet another example of health inequality.

‘Ministers should also back Liberal Democrat proposals to give everyone the legal right to an appointment within a week, or within 24 hours if in urgent need.’

The figures, which come from NHS Digital, are not a direct measure of waiting times for all GP appointments.

Patients are allocated appointments based on an assessment of their medical issue, with more urgent or concerning problems given priority. 

Generally 4 week waits have become more common over time, accounting for an increasing proportion of GP appointments, although levels peaked in late 2022 they have remained high this year as well 

NHS data shows 70 per cent of GP appointments were face-to-face in April – the highest figure since the Covid pandemic kicked off in 2020. The figure fell slightly in May to 69.8 per cent

Forty-four per cent of all GP appointments in England in May were held on the same day the patient called seeking help.

The four-week wait also includes patients who specifically asked for an appointment on a specific date in the future.

READ MORE: Revealed: Up to one in EIGHT patients have been waiting over a year for NHS treatment in ‘stark postcode lottery’ – so how bad are queues in your area?  

It comes as data shows public satisfaction with their GP has fallen to an all-time low, with many giving up trying to see their doctor altogether.

Just seven in ten patients (71.3 per cent) describe their overall experience of their GP practice as ‘good’ overall in the latest edition of an annual survey. This was the lowest since records began 2018. 

In 2021, 10 per cent of patients who had tried to get an appointment did not get one either because one was not offered or they were unable to take the offered slot. 

But in 2023, this figure had risen to 16 per cent. 

Experts have blamed the GP appointment crisis on a rising population and shrinking workforce.

Many family doctors are choosing to retire in their 50s, move abroad or leave to work in the private sector because of complaints about soaring demand, paperwork and a toxic environment. 

It means the number of patients per fully qualified GP has rocketed to its highest-ever level, with an average of 2,273 people scrambling for appointments with each family doctor – an increase of 15 per cent in five years.

There were just 27,558 full-time equivalent, fully qualified GPs working in England in June 2022 down 1.6 per cent on 2021. This was down 5.3 per cent on the more than 29,000 working in June 2017

NHS statistics show there were 27,200 full-time-equivalent fully qualified GPs as of the end of May this year.

This is 427 fewer than the same time last year.  

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