The Royal College of GPs, 85% of appointments with general practitioners (GPs) in England happen within two weeks, and nearly half of them are scheduled for the same day. The remaining appointments that take longer than two weeks may be routine ones for which the wait is appropriate, the College added. Prof Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, stated that GPs and their teams work tirelessly to deliver safe, timely, and appropriate care and to offer patients the choice of appointment they want. She also acknowledged that patients’ struggle to access GP care is frustrating, but this is not due to GPs and their teams’ hard work but the result of decades of underfunding and poor resource planning.
The number of GP appointments in England is approximately 30 million per month, and GPs are delivering more appointments overall than before the pandemic. However, there are fewer full-time fully qualified staff available. Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, Wes Streeting, is due to give a speech on primary healthcare and repeat his party’s promise to train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses each year.
Mr Streeting also criticised the Conservative government for understaffing the NHS and failing to deliver on its promises. He argued that patients are finding it impossible to get GP appointments when they need them, and these long waiting times mean that illnesses will go undiagnosed for longer, causing patients to suffer from pain and discomfort for weeks or even months. He promised that the Labour Party would fix the front-door to the NHS by doubling medical school places to train more doctors and nurses each year.
The Conservative Party defended its record on doctor recruitment, claiming that it is expanding the primary-care workforce. A party spokesperson criticised Labour’s plan to restructure the NHS, which doctors have reportedly described as dangerous and expensive, while claiming that the government has recruited over 5,100 more doctors in the past 12 months in England, making it easier for patients to see a GP and reducing waiting lists.
The Liberal Democrats also weighed in on the issue, pledging to recruit an additional 8,000 GPs to guarantee patients the right to an appointment within one week and ensure that they receive the care they need.