North East patients forced to wait a week or more to see a GP

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Chronicle Live

Doctors warn they are at ‘breaking point’ as NHS figures show patients face long waits to see a GP or nurse, the Chronicle Live reports.

Large numbers of patients are forced to wait a week or longer to see a GP in the North East. Doctors’ leaders said there was an urgent need for more funding as new official figures suggested the health service was struggling to cope with demand.

Dr Gavin Ralston, a spokesman for the British Medical Association, said: “The worsening state of general practice is a direct result of years of underinvestment, as the failure to address rising patient demand has pushed services to breaking point and left GPs worryingly overstretched.”

A survey of patients conducted by the NHS showed that 21% – more than one in five people – were forced to wait more than a week to see a GP in the area served by the Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group.

This is one of NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) responsible for commissioning health services.

And 21% of patients also had to wait a week or more to see a GP in the area served by Sunderland CCG.

The survey found 20% of patients had to wait at least a week to see a GP in the areas served by North Tyneside CCG, and South Tyneside CCG. Eighteen per cent had to wait a week or longer in Northumberland.

The figures refer to the wait between managing to arrange an appointment and actually seeing or speaking to a GP or nurse.

However, the survey showed overall satisfaction with GPs remains high, with 85% of people rating their experience as good. Some 92% also had confidence and trust in the last GP they saw.

Labour said it would give GPs “the resources and support they need”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This research exemplifies just how hard it is becoming to see a GP in Tory Britain, with patients’ overall experience of their GP services getting drastically worse.”

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A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “GPs are the absolute bedrock of the health service which is why we’ve backed them with an extra £2.4 billion of funding for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

“Patients deserve to be able to get the right care at the right time for them and 17 million people are already able to make a routine appointment with a GP at evenings and weekends.”

Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington, said “The waiting times for GP appointments are getting longer year on year and this is simply unacceptable.

“This survey demonstrates how the systematic underfunding by this conservative government has put unnecessary pressure directly on GPs.

“GPs are at the heart of the NHS and are being pushed to leave the service as a result of being overworked and undervalued.

“Part of the solution is to encourage and train more of our brightest and best young people from our area to go into medicine and also to fund the National Health Service adequately enough so GP practices can function and cope with the pressures of an ageing population.”

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