One in five patients seeking an appointment with their family doctor in Hartlepool and Stockton had to wait a week or more, a survey shows.
The Royal College of GPs said the findings were concerning, and that there is a risk of people not getting the treatment they need to prevent medical conditions becoming more serious.
Of the GP patients in the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG who responded to the NHS’s annual GP Survey, 21% had to wait a week or more to see a GP or nurse last time they booked an appointment. Five years ago, just 16% had to wait that long.
In the area, the issue was most pronounced at Woodbridge Practice in Ingleby Barwick, where 41% of patients had to wait a week or longer to see a GP or nurse. At the other end of the scale, only 5% of patients faced a week’s delay at the Koh Practice in Hartlepool.
A spokesman for Hartlepool and Stockton CCG, said: “The survey was sent out to 9,963 patients in the NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG area (approximately 3.35% of the registered patient population) with a 35% response rate.
“The comments relate to question 21 of the survey: ‘How long after initially trying to book the appointment did the appointment take place?’ and the response of ‘a week or more later’ was selected by 41% of patients who responded to that question (84 patients) at Woodbridge Practice and 5% of patients who responded to that question (3 patients) at Koh Practice.
“The CCG is aware of the 2018 GP Patient Survey results and actively discusses the results with each practice as part of our annual visit process and the areas of improvement as highlighted by the GP Patient Survey results.”
Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to ensure all doctor’s surgeries would open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, unless they proved there was no demand.
The survey shows that fewer than two thirds of patients in the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG are happy with the appointment times available to them.
It means that 7% of patients in the area ended up not accepting the last appointment they were offered.
Of those who did not take an appointment, 7% went on to visit a hospital A&E – the service which extended GP hours are supposed to be taking the strain off.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Patients are still waiting too long for a GP appointment, and too many are not getting an appointment when they want one.
“As well as being frustrating for patients, and GPs, this is concerning as it means patients might not be getting the treatment they need in the early stages of their condition – and their conditions will potentially become more serious.
“The plain truth is that existing GPs and our teams are working to absolute capacity and we just don’t have enough GPs to offer enough appointments.
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock has identified workforce and prevention as two of his top priorities – if he is serious about tackling the GP workforce crisis, and keeping patients out of hospital where care is far costlier, it is essential that the Government invests properly in general practice.”
The Royal College of GPs believe an extra £2.5bn a year on top of what has already been promised by NHS England is required to keep GP services working effectively, added Professor Stokes-Lampard.