GP postcode lottery

2 Apr 2024
GP Waiting times

Some areas of the country saw a shocking 80% rise in the number of four-week waits for a GP appointment last year, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

In SE London we know that the number has increased but Bromley Lib Dems want to hear people's individual experiences of booking an appointment with their GP. "We're running a survey of local residents," said Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Will Connolly. "Already we've had a range of responses, some people report a good service while others report waiting much longer than 4 weeks to see their GP." If you would like to share your experience please fill in our survey here

The House of Commons Library analysis looks at NHS data measuring the time between when a GP appointment was booked and when it took place, broken down by local NHS areas (sub-Integrated Care Boards) across England. Every single local area in the country saw a rise in 4-week GP waits in 2023 compared to the previous year. The Vale of York saw a staggering 79% increase in GP waits of 4 weeks or more, the highest in the country.  Bury saw a 74% increase in 4-week waits, East Leicestershire and Rutland saw a 69% jump, and Blackpool a 68% increase. In the Prime Minister’s own backyard of North Yorkshire, there was a 56% rise in 4-week GP waits compared to the previous year.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey warned that the Conservative government has “failed to get a grip on this GP crisis” and is leaving patients in limbo. The Lib Dems are calling for patients to be given a legal right to see their GP within seven days or 24-hours if in urgent need. It comes after a survey by the King’s Fund last week found only a third of people are satisfied with GP services, the lowest since records began in 1983. Since 2019, satisfaction with GP services has fallen by 34 percentage points.

The Commons Library research found that across England, the number of four-week waits for a GP appointment soared to 17.6 million, up 38% from 12.8 million the previous year. It means one in twenty (5.1%) of GP appointments last year involved waits of four weeks or more. In some parts of the country the proportion of patients waiting four-weeks or more to see their GP is almost double the national average. Gloucestershire was the worst in the country with close to one in 10 (9.4%) GP appointments involving waits of over a month in 2023, up from 6.8% the previous year. This was followed by Derby and Derbyshire (9.4%), Sheffield (9.3%) and Dorset (8.7%). 

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“These soaring GP waits show a grim postcode lottery, with communities being abandoned when it comes to local health services. Far too many people are being left in limbo, waiting for weeks on end to get a GP appointment when they need one.

“This Conservative government has neglected local health services for far too long. Their failure to get a grip on this GP crisis is causing huge anxiety for families right across the country.

“It should not be too much to ask to be able to see a GP when you need to. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right for patients to get a GP appointment within seven days or 24-hours if in urgent need.”

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