New data from the NHS has shown that more people are waiting a month for a GP appointment than at any time since records began in 2017.
34,200 people in Sheffield faced a wait of 28 days or more to see a GP in October alone. A further 58,736 people had to wait more than two weeks. Over a quarter (26%) of all appointments across Sheffield practices were delayed by at least 14 days.
Almost two million people in England had to wait more than 28 days in October, while a further 4.3 million had to wait more than two weeks. At the same time, the number of GPs has fallen to a record low, leaving patients in a desperate scramble to be seen. Since 2013, 4,600 GPs have been cut.
The findings come as the Labour Party plans to abolish the non-dom tax status, which allows some wealthy people who live in Britain to pay their taxes overseas, to pay for training a new generation of NHS staff. Labour’s plan would:
- Double the number of medical school places, training 15,000 new doctors a year
- Train 10,000 additional nurses and midwives every year
- Double the number of district nurses qualifying each year
- Train 5,000 new health visitors
Labour’s plan will see patients guaranteed a face-to-face appointment with a GP if they want one. While some patients prefer to hold appointments over the phone, many are frustrated at not being able to see their doctor in person, and just 22% of patients are given a choice in the type of appointment they have. One in seven people who try to speak to a nurse or GP were unable to get an appointment at all last year.
Labour is also pledging to bring back the family doctor, so patients can see the same GP each appointment if they choose to. Patients are increasingly unable to see the doctor of their choice, with two in every three patients rarely or never speaking to their preferred doctor, up from just half in 2018. Under Labour’s plans, GP practices will be provided with incentives to offer patients continuity of care, so doctors must take into account patients’ preferences.
Cllr George Lindars-Hammond, Labour councillor, Hillsborough ward; co-chair of the Adult Health and Social Care Policy Committee) said,
“Patients – some of them very vulnerable – are finding it ever harder to see a GP when they need to. In October 2022 we had 93,000 people unable to access an appointment within two weeks. There will be conditions going undiagnosed until it is too late.”
Cllr Ruth Milsom, Labour councillor, Crookes and Crosspool ward; chair of the Health Scrutiny Sub-committee) commented,
“Sadly this situation is not new. 12 years of Conservative failure has driven the NHS deeper and deeper into crisis. Despite all the rhetoric about keeping people well and out of hospital, Tory politicians have failed to address the most obvious workforce needs, leaving us with thousands fewer GPs. Patients are being put at risk, and clinicians are under intolerable pressure.”
Cllr Milsom called in a report to the Scrutiny committee from South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board in November 2022, asking them to set out the ‘state of primary care in Sheffield’. “It’s not good,” she said. “Until there is a fundamental change of attitude in government, we can only continue to challenge local NHS commissioners to respond to the growing crisis in primary care. If they’re unable to make significant improvements, they must demand better resources and performance from politicians in Westminster. The Scrutiny committee is keen to hear more from GPs themselves as to the pressures they face.”