Patients live with medical problems longer as they wait to see a GP

Article date: 21 September 2011

  • Over a quarter of patients wait over a week to see a GP
  • Less than a third see a GP within 48 hours
  • Two thirds of patients live with conditions longer than they would like
  • Yet four-fifths are happy with the quality of their treatment or advice

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of patients live with medical problems longer than they would like, or avoid going to the doctor altogether, because they are unable to get a GP appointment at a suitable time. According to research conducted by Aviva UK Health, over a quarter (27%) of patients across the UK wait more than a week for an appointment with their doctor.

The research also shows that since the removal of targets for GPs to see patients within 48 hours, less than a third (30%) of patients were seen by a GP within 48 hours when they made an appointment over the last 12 months.

However, an encouraging 80% of patients are happy with the quality of the medical treatment or advice they received once they see a health professional.

Patients experience different average waiting times to see a GP across the UK1. Nearly two in five patients in Wales (39%) waited at least seven days for an appointment over the last year; while a third of patients in East Anglia (33%) and London (32%) also waited over a week. One in 10 patients in East Anglia (9%) waited over two weeks for an appointment.

The regions with the highest proportion of patients seen within 48 hours are the East Midlands (37%); West Midlands (35%) and South West (34%).2

Across the UK, children seem to be seen more quickly than adults once a request for an appointment has been made, with over half (57%) of respondents claiming their children were seen by a GP within 48 hours.

Waiting a long time in the surgery is the number one gripe about visiting a GP, with nearly half (47%) of patients finding it annoying, while two in five (40%) are unhappy about not being able to get through on the phone. Over a third (37%) of patients finds waiting over 48 hours to see a GP a cause for complaint.

The average time spent waiting in the surgery over the last year was 21 minutes, while patients spent on average 10 minutes to get through on the phone. However, over three-quarters (77%) of patients found GP’s receptionists helpful once they got though.

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development at Aviva UK Health, says: “We know from our recent Health of the Nation report that GPs are under pressure and that time constraints are a significant issue, so it’s clear that some patients are feeling the knock-on effects in longer waits for an appointment and not getting the right treatment as quickly as they’d like. At the same time, it is great to see that an overwhelming majority of patients are happy with the quality of advice and medical treatment they get from their GP when they are seen.

“We know from our research that GPs increasingly spend time dealing with issues that don’t require their attention. While people worried about their health should always seek advice, there is a clear need for GPs, other health professionals and healthcare providers such as Aviva to educate people about the most appropriate source of support to help relieve the pressure on GP surgeries across the UK.”

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If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Melissa Loughran: Aviva Press Office 
01904 452791 / 07800 69147  
Melissa.loughran@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:  

1. Patients who have waited over a week for a GP appointment in the last 12 months:

Region

% of patients waiting over a week to see GP

Wales

39%

Scotland

35%

East Anglia

33%

London

32%

Yorkshire & the Humber

26%

South West

25%

East Midlands

22%

West Midlands

20%

North West

20%

South East

19%

North East

18%

2. Patients seen by a GP within 48 hours of making contact with the surgery in the last 12 months:

Region

% of patients seen within 48 hours

East Midlands

37%

West Midlands

35%

South West

34%

North East

33%

East Anglia

32%

North West

31%

Yorkshire & the Humber

30%

South East

30%

London

26%

Wales

26%

Scotland

22%

2,000 UK adults aged 18 upwards were surveyed for Aviva by OnePoll in August 2011. 

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