Quarter wait over a week to see GP

More than a quarter of patients in Britain have waited more than a week to see a GP, according to a survey.

Fewer than a third, 30% of patients, said they had been able to see a GP within two days with 27% unable to get an appointment within a week during the past year.

Nearly two-thirds, or 65%, of patients said they had lived with medical problems longer than they would have liked, or avoided going to the doctor altogether, because they were unable to get a GP appointment at a suitable time.

The online research commissioned by insurance group Aviva showed four-fifths were happy with the quality of the treatment or advice they eventually received.

The poll conducted in August found variations in the proportion of patients across Britain waiting more than a week for a GP appointment in the last year.

In Wales 39% reported having waited more than a week for a GP appointment in the last year followed by 35% in Scotland. This figure fell to 18% in the North East.

The highest proportion of patients seeing a GP within 48 hours of making contact with a surgery in the last year was in the East Midlands at 37%, followed by the West Midlands at 35% and the South West at 34%.

Scotland had the lowest proportion seeing a GP within 48 hours at 22%.

The survey comes after the Government scrapped a 48-hour target last year for GP appointments in England, allowing family doctors to choose when to make patients a priority.

David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation primary care trust network, said: "It is really important for patients that access to their GP is quick and convenient.

"Many GPs successfully manage to see and treat their patients within reasonable time.

"But with the removal of Government targets for GP access and growing financial pressures throughout the NHS, it is not surprising there will be an increase in some places in the numbers of patients waiting longer."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: "GPs monitor their patients' satisfaction with their appointment systems and always strive to meet demand, but the reasons why some people may wait longer than a week for an appointment will vary.

"Some people may have requested a routine appointment for a non-urgent problem, for example, or it may be a follow-up appointment for an ongoing issue.

"What's important is that the patient is seen in a timely manner according to their clinical need."