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Short-notice primary care access deteriorates


One in five patients were unable to get an appointment with a GP within 48 hours last year, according to the British Medical Association.

The BMA survey reveals that 20% of patients who wanted to see a doctor within a two-day period were unsuccessful last year, up from 16% in the previous year.

Of the two million patients surveyed, this 4% rise represents 80,000 people.

The survey also uncovered lower satisfaction with GP services compared with the previous year. But the BMA said overall satisfaction levels remained high despite the extra pressure on doctors from the swine flu pandemic.

The poll found 71% of patients who wanted to book ahead for an appointment could do so, down from 76% in the previous year.

Of those wanting an appointment with a particular doctor, 75% could get one all, or a lot of the time, down from 77%.

Some 81% of patients were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the hours their GP surgery was open, down 1% on the previous year.

But more than half (56%) said they would like their surgery open at extra times.

Overall, 90% of patients in 2009/10 reported being either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the overall care they received at their surgery, down 1%.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “We’re not surprised to see the slight dip in the access figures. GPs would obviously like every patient to be happy with the care they receive, but we are pleased that overall, nine in 10 people remain satisfied with their care.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • Natalie Jewell

    I always struggle to get an appointment at my surgery. They always tell me to go to the Walk-in Centre. Or to wait 2 weeks for a routine appointment. Sometimes I have phoned within 5 minutes of opening time only to discover I am 13th in the queue and when I finally speak to someone 30 minutes later all their appointments have gone and they tell me to ring back for the next surgery.

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  • yes its true, being told to ring the next surgery to see if they have any appointments left later on. Sometimes you feel its an excuse to control numbers comfortably and get rid of you quick instead of realising you may be very ill. I had cerebral surgery last year and a few months being at home unable to get out the feelings of isolation were enormous, but I didn't want to tell anyone this because I was worried they would think it was something to do with my tumour that was removed and I was moaning unecessarily, so suffered in silence. Just couldn't get an appointment quickly, so many times.

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  • Martin Gray

    Even in large surgeries the number of appointments is finite, and i would agree that the telephone appointments system leaves a lot to be desired.
    Perhaps it would help if 1 or 2 doctors did all day surgeries so that more patients could be seen, and the visits (which are much fewer nowadays) could be done by the others?
    being told to go to a WIC is not acceptable as the condition may be on-going or not appropriate to other services.

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