Have you ever been stuck on the phone trying to get an appointment at your doctor’s surgery, just to find that there aren’t any available? You’re not alone – millions of us have trouble booking a slot with our GP.
In a survey of two million people during 2010, a fifth said they found it difficult to make an appointment with their GP over the phone.
The GP Patient Survey also discovered that one in five people struggled to see their doctor ‘fairly quickly’, with the main cause being a lack of available appointments.
Due to NHS targets, you should be able to get an appointment with a GP or nurse within 48 hours. But, as we all know, we’re often not that lucky.
Our 2009 investigation found that 39% of people in the UK (or around 13 million people) had to make several attempts to get through to their surgery by phone. Thankfully, the GP Patient Survey suggests that this percentage has dropped.
Knowing when to call
Most of the time, it’s about knowing when to call. I’ve always made sure to ring early in the morning to ensure a consultation on the same day. However, this also creates problems.
Almost half of the population is required to call their surgery first thing to get a slot. This influx makes it more difficult for people to get through, as they’re competing with fellow patients for a free phone line.
For instance, my friend battled to get through to her local practice last week. When she finally did, she was told that there were no appointments for the next three weeks! Of course, like most working people, she was after an evening appointment, which are a tad difficult to get hold of. Yet these are the slots that many of us want – in our 2009 survey, half of the 2,400 people we asked wanted appointments outside of 9am to 5pm.
Is the system flawed?
So do you think there is an inherent problem with the way GP appointments have to be made in the UK? Jo Webber, deputy policy director of the NHS Confederation, emphasises the importance of being able to use your GP practice:
‘Patients need to be able to access their GP easily otherwise there is a serious risk they will add to the already considerable pressures faced by A&E departments and 999 services.’
How many times have you tried unsuccessfully to get through to your GP, or been told you can only phone to book appointments at certain times of day?