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Doctors’ leaders warn of risk to patients who must wait to see a GP

The RCGPs is warning this could present a “genuine risk” to patients if the situation does not improve.

More than a third of patients in some parts of the country are waiting over a week for appointments to see a doctor, new figures show.

Data from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) suggests that, if current trends continue, the number of patients waiting more than a week will jump by a quarter over the next five years.

The number of instances where patients wait a week or more to see a GP is set to rise from 80 million in 2016/17 to 102 million in 2021/22 – a 25% increase.

Currently in 21 Clinical Commissioning Group areas, covering 5.6 million patients, they are waiting at least a week for a GP or practice nurse appointment more than a quarter of the time.

Patients waited more than a week 36% of the time in Corby, 34% of the time in Fareham and Gosport, and 31% of the time in Swindon and central London.

The RCGPs is warning this could present a “genuine risk” to patients if the situation does not improve.

It said that, even in the areas with best access, such as Bradford City, there are around one in 10 patients still unable to get an appointment within a week.

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Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard. (Royal College of General Practitioners/PA)

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chairwoman, said she was “highly concerned” about the “clear risk to patient safety” which appeared set to get worse.

“If these patients can’t secure an appointment with their GP when they need one, it’s probable that they will return at some point to another area of the NHS, when their condition may have worsened, and where their care will cost the health service significantly more – something which could’ve been avoided if they’d been able their GP in the first instance.

“GPs and our teams are now making more patient consultations than ever before – over 370 million each year – and with workload continuing to escalate, and with continuing resource and workforce pressures, the worrying outcome is that we will be unable to see all our patients who need to be seen,” she said.

The RCGP called on the Government to ensure that more than 100 pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View, launched last year, are delivered more rapidly.

These include an extra £2.4 billion each year for general practice, 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more members of the wider practice team.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “We are investing over £100m extra this year and £200m extra next year to make it easier for people to see a GP but many patients actually prefer to wait for more convenient appointments.

“Predictions based on existing trends also won’t reflect the improvements that our multi-million pound action plan will deliver over five years, such as recruiting more GPs and giving everyone access to evening and weekend appointments by 2019.”

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