/ Health

Is it too hard to get an appointment with your GP?

Woman sick on phone

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?


In my area the Doctors did a paydeal with [name removed] ,approx 20 years ago, under Thatcher , so they now hold the purse strings .It used to be the top Specialists in hospitals. Yes those who maladministrate social services have now access to our records which they shortened to their corporate bias, so my Online Record is libellous ignoring my disability & those doing the referring are a call centre. Any Doctor who can say to you before take you on after raised issue re: GMC they were going to rotate yearly, take no account of history further referrals or hospital medication after 4 hospital depts cut me off . GPs had said not taught about condition that required antibiotics.Now they regard them as ‘poison “their words.Four surgeries did this.
They are ignoring the fact that same behaviour resulted in cardiac arrest 6 yrs ago never having been referred( weekly follow up visits)
The GPs do as they are directed by their contracts as do hospital Doctors too. Many no longer take the hippocratic oath because if did would not be able to work under such conditions so many are not trained here.They know no different.

David says:
15 April 2013

Yes, I agree. I can’t see anybody and of course my illness doesn’t exist, bipolar ll, but I’m sure it will exist when the rail line is closed down thus making everybody late home because the Transport Police have to remove a body from the tracks, south of Preston. Peace to you all and god bless us Jimbo, if he exists.

ye s i exist i have been at hospital all day having a camera looking at my bowels got to go back tomorrow to have a biopsy sorry i am late answering you but the next 3 days i have to go to differant hospitals i thought they could do it all at one but no just let us suffer at our expence

whent for the biopsy only to be told after 4 hours that they did not want to do it because of my heart condition another wasted day and god knows how much it cost me i could have told them all this at the start do they never read your mediclal history apperantly not had a ct scan this afternoon but no answers again how are we suppose to trust them jimbo

PEGGY says:
14 May 2013

I hardly go to the doctors the most is about three / four times a year only when I feel really ill and can never get appointment have to wait up to a week if not more and the emergency doctor is just a talk over the phone cant go in what is the point – i had no voice /sore thoat and high temperture he call me back and explained how i was feeling couild hardly talk he ask – whats the problem ? tell him in a very sore thoat and no voice he says and what do you want me to do? you can be half dead and cant get in to see the doctor and when yuou do they in such a rush to get you out the door they not bothered how sick you are??? we pay our money each money but we dont get service we not getting it for free – taking it off my pay each month – SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE SERVICES WE GET FOR OUR MONEY

i dont know about else but does anyone have problems with getting there prescriptions today i had to phone my docs because there was 3 items left off my repeat prescription only to be told by the snoty receptions that SHE couldnt give them to me since when do they get a degree in being a doctor 1 of the items is to help my sugar level low because i have type 2 diabetes 1 is for controlling my prostate as they think i have prostate cancer and the last 1 is to stop wetting myself this happens every month and i am sick of it i take 32 tablets a day and been going to the same chemist for 3 years who do you complain about it??? oh the doc have know blocked my phone so i cant ring them

My GP surgery will deliver prescriptions to several local pharmacies, so that they are ready to collect within 48 hours of ordering online or by phone. I have been told that some pharmacies will deliver free-of-charge to people who would have difficulty in collecting their medicines. I’m not in that category but you might be.

Best of luck in getting this sorted out.

Thanks for your quick reply i eventuly got through to someone who was over 18 and got it all sorted is it any wonder they dont keep jobs cheers jimbo

orderd my prescription on 21-6-13 went down just for cost 5 quid each way in a taxi lloyds chemist they told me there computer and phone line was not working and hadnt been for 2 weeks WHO runs a chemist and leaves it for 2 weeks without doing something about there computer or phone had to go back next day at the same cost to me they are the worst chemist in this country sorry it was a friday when i orderd and tuesday before i got my tablets its been this way since they went computerised well i have had enough of them

Mikeyone says:
27 June 2013

This is the way it is now and can’t see it getting better jimbo m8, I have the same problem, they say its been sent to chemist electronically, then you go to pick it up and they say it hasn’t arrived,so then I’ve got to go back to the doctors deceptionist and get one written out by hand,which is what they should have done the first time,only had it waiting for me once, and I felt like a lottery winner,but when you say you’ve had enough, what are you going to do go back to witch doctors, I sympathise with you jimbo.

i couldnt put it better myself thanks for the swift reply i thought it was me

The time taken to grant audiences is not the only way that GPs demonstrate a lack of promptness in dealing with their customers.

On 5th November 2009 (yes 2009) I posted a comment about poor hygiene and other concerns about my doctor’s surgery on NHS Choices. Nothing further was heard until yesterday (26th June 2013) when that website emailed me to say that the practice had that day posted a response. This contained neither apologynor explanation for the delay.

Can anyone beat that record for the time taken by a “professional” organisation to respond to a comment or complaint?

if you think getting a gp appointment is hard to get try and get to see some body at a hospital it is a joke i am waiting to see a heart doctor i was told i had prostate cancer it took 3 weeks to see my gp i had to beg her to send me to see a heart doctor seeing david cameron on friday was easier i have been given a phone number that is i dont think exists a NHS web site that crashes as soon as you log on this health service is at its lowest ever thanks to cameron & co

Karl says:
19 July 2013

I am fed up with my Doctors surgery,it takes absolutely ages to get through,but when you do there are no appointment available,all they do is fob you off with excuses,so every time I get ill I no longer waste my time,I go to an NHS Drop in centre as unlike Doctors Surgeries they actually see you and give you the treatment needed.

zena says:
27 May 2014

I’m a teacher, so have to try book an evening appointment)(which are very difficult to get hold of) or wait until half term to book an appointment if I can. However, most of the doctors in my surgery take half term off, which I understand, as they have children. This does create a huge problem for me. I’d like surgeries to offer more ‘after’ work hours so I could see the doctor when I need to.

Brian Hughes says:
6 June 2014

What are the rules regarding appointments?
It is impossible to get an appointment with my GP the following day or even in the same week.
I rang for an appointment on 6th June and was told the earliest appointment was 18th June. This is not the first time this has happened,, I regularily have to book 2 weeks in advance and twice I needed to go to A&E and waited 5 to 8 hours, this is unacceptable, I am nearly 70, worked all my life paying taxes and NHS contributions [this comment has been edited by mods to align with the Which? Conversation guidelines]

Mike says:
6 June 2014

I don’t think there are any rules any more, I used to be involved in patent user group, have since left due to being used as a PR gimmick that’s all that seems to happen with them nowadays, I’ve had cancer and am clear up to date touch wood, our group fought hard getting the thirty day pathway from diagnosis to treatment, but they can’t manage it I know people to numerous to mention who are now dead because of lack of treatment, what use is the thirty day pathway when it can take you a fortnight two see your doctor, the only way is sue the pants of them and if you are still alive use the money to have some treatment and if you are on your last legs put it in a bank account to be used for your family if they ever get ill, god forbid, but the situation isn’t going to get any better as the NHS is going into meltdown so heaven help us, at this rate we will be going back to medicen men and witchcraft.

Brian, you might not think so, but you are probably one of the luckier ones.

I used to be able to get an appointment with my doctor within a few days, a week at most. Now it is 6 weeks for my doctor, 4 weeks for my second choice of several doctors and 3 weeks for a nurse. A&E waiting is about 5 hours and they want to shut that down and make you drive another 15 miles.

There is no patient care any more. If animals had to wait this long for treatment, it would be called animal cruelty.

And I forgot the 18-24 weeks you have to wait for a consultant.!!!!!

Mike says:
6 June 2014

Sue the pants of them, that’s all I can say.

you are very lucky to get an appointment, I work 12 hours shift so i can’t get an appointment at all as my doctors does not booked appointments in advance as it only book on the day and within 20 minutes of trying to get through at 8 am all the appointments have gone.

under the new legislation passed by this parliament
to sue them would mean using your own funds legal aid does not extend to this anymore
the only answer is to move doctors I have and have a great practice hopefully they move a little into the modern world and let us order scripts online.

Mike says:
7 June 2014

Doctors earn good money, with all the little perks they have from drug company’s etc, they don’t get the sympathy vote anymore well not in my book,I have to physically graft 8 to 10 hours a day for a£120 a day so for gods sake stop whingeing pull you fingers out and get the job done, or like a customer said to me if you don’t like your job find a different one.

Maya says:
9 July 2014

At the end of May I was advised I would need blood tests and an ultra sound scan on my liver. After several blood tests each week and the scan showing a slightly enlarged liver plus kidney stones, in both kidneys, I was told I needed more blood tests and a referral to a urology clinic.

I called for the results of my blood tests and was told the GP had made a note that he’d like to see me for a routine appointment. According to the receptionist I can’t have a phone appointment until 28th July (today is the 9th!) or an actual appointment until 4th August.

My problems started out of the blue and I’m obviously anxious about the latest blood results but have to wait over 4 weeks to get the results! At least my urology appointment arrived today for 2nd September so that’s something but I can’t believe I have to wait over 4 weeks to see my GP – that’s totally unacceptable!

I am spending weeks going in to GPs begging for referrals taken away one was chronic utis acute 3 weekly now causing severe spinal problems.6 years it was weekly visit for NO REFERRALS & one problem at time making everything else worse .
The Prof says the heart attack & spinal spasiciity not his remit but not allowing GPs to refer as Research is the disability [ low priority] affecting most problems the uro & neuro.
I suspect I am a guinea pig withdraw antibiotics I will get sepsis[ pyuria] & die .Do they care ? The Neurologist has watchful waiting on form as possibly relates to genetic multi infart dementia which Mother had severely.They then blame me for them not treating me appropriately in the Community.This is deliberately negligent causing even more problems .Thery still not addressed the medical interactions caused by so many medications despite 3-5 visits & one is diazepan which is addictive,the others cause weight gain.Am now having to spend £1000s abroad getting decent treatment.Not doing a back xray when presented at A&E over 20 x is not it.As a result had t0 spend £500 to find these specialists not addressing the minimally invasive .

Usmangani Adam says:
13 February 2015

There were many occasions I experienced getting appointment with GP which we can say, our GP system goes back to stone age slowly!! The latest experience was my three years old son had cuffing for three days, medicine for cuff is not offered from chemists by minor ailment card. My wife phoned 9:15 to surgery for appointment, receptionist said Doctor would call me after 12:00PM so fist three ours was already gone!! then I had to wait for doctor’s call every single moment keeping my phone front of me. every single moment I was scared of don’t miss call from doctor, these moments are really stressful!! After waiting 7 ours at the end I missed call because I went to another room for few seconds. So after waiting 7 hours which looked like 7 centuries Doctors duty was fulfilled by giving me a 15 second’s miss call!! can’t understand in which era are we living?

Shonafish says:
23 February 2015

My gp makes appointments from 8am, i called continusouly from 8am until i got trought at 8.10am this showed on my phone records as calling 55 times, because i needed an appointment for this morning. 55 times! When i finally got through the earliest appointment is 16.40 somehow they are all gone in 10 mins. Btw this appointment should have been made 7 days after my last one, but this one is a month later as i couldnt get in wjen i called all the appointments are always gone.This is disgusting and completely unnecessary.

Very Frustrated Patient says:
17 March 2015

This happens also at my gp so I hear you..

Very Frustrated Patient says:
17 March 2015

I can never get in when I need to be treated but if it’s for a routine checkup that they send a letter for I’m. In straight away…my surgery is an absolute joke! Chirpy receptionists who couldn’t care less if your ill or not say the same thing like they are programmed “can you call back at 8am? ” Well I would if I was that I’ll I can’t sleep till 4am and so I’m Def not waking up 4 hours later to be left on hold for half hour while you have your morning cuppa! I’m disgusted at the level of service my gp surgery provide…something has to be done!

The only sure way to get an early appointment at my local GP Practice is to physically go there to make it if you are able or ask a friend or relative to go for you. Its much easier for receptionists to fob you off on the ‘phone than it is for them to confront you face to face.

Why doesn’t the NHS introduce a system similar to the Sale of Goods and Services Act whereby it is a fundamental human right to be receive the appropriate care within a certain time limit. They have done this at A & E with a 4 hour waiting time limit so why not incorporate a similar system at Primary Care level? It may help to reduce the numbers attending the already overworked A & E Depts.

I am strongly in favour of anything that takes the pressure off the A&E departments. Lest we forget, ‘A & E’ stands for Accident and Emergency, both of which require urgent attention and priority. It is disgraceful that routine treatments are being performed at A&E that should be dealt with at the primary care level. Obviously, A&E has to accept whatever presents and give the best treatment they can. There is usually a triage process to ensure that criticality is taken into account in dealing with accident cases and emergencies like heart attacks and strokes, but the more ‘non-essential’ cases that are dealt with at A&E the less efficient and the more overstretched the service becomes. Some of these non-accident or non-emergency cases have the cheek to complain about the length of time they are kept waiting and give the hard-pressed staff a difficult time, which can’t be good for caring for a genuine emergency that might arrive at any time.

Andrew says:
1 June 2015

Getting better?
I don’t think so.
If I have a problem and go to the A&E, they’re wonderful.
But try to get an appointment to see a GP so that I don’t have to go to the A&E when it gets bad, well that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Must call between 8 and 8:30 – but they never answer the phone, or you can come in, but not before 9 am, and you may or may not be seen.
(last week I took time off, 2 days, went into the GPs office, phone rang and rang and rang, and no-one answered it, so I know it’s not that it’s just “busy”, and still I could not get an appointment)

So, if you have a job, you can’t get an appointment, without taking time off work.

I even have private insurance, but that doesn’t help, you have to get in to see the GP first, before you can use the private insurance.

NHS – A&E is fabulous, the people working there are all wonderful
GPs – well I don’t know about every other GP, but I can tell you that the one I’m registered with won’t see you unless you can sit in the lobby for more than 2 days.

I’ve talked with a couple of friends, registered in other practices, and they say it’s the same thing.

Is there some kind of slow-down going on? are the office staff on strike? why aren’t they answering the phones? why won’t they make an appointment?

We pay GPs a big enough salary and in my view they should repay that by recognising that we have health issues round the clock and at weekends. In my youth GPs had an emergency doctor on call at night and weekends. You could also get same-day appointments if you felt it was necessary. It worked then and should do now.

Many surgeries – now “health centres” – are often well equipped and well staffed during the day and I see no reason why they could not deal with the minor injuries and other problems that currently people take to A&E. Take the unnecessary pressure off hospitals and leave them to deal promptly with real emergencies.

It’s time the medical profession started to think “how we can” instead of “why we can’t”.