'Three-week wait to see GP' fears
Average waiting times for patients at some GP surgeries could rise to more than three weeks in a year from now, a new survey suggests.
One in four family doctors surveyed by GP magazine Pulse said the current wait for an appointment at their practice was two weeks, while one in five said they believed it would increase to as much as a month within the next 12 months.
The health of GP services has been a feature of the General Election campaign as t he Conservatives have promised seven-day access to practices and same-day access for the over 75s, while Labour has pledged the return of the 48-hour appointment guarantee and a GP in every A&E department by next winter.
Both parties have also promised they will provide thousands more GPs if they are elected, although last month Pulse reported a third of GP training places for August remained unfilled while there was a 9% vacancy rate.
A total of 714 doctors were asked how long patients had to wait for a non-urgent appointment, with 39.5% saying less than a week and 35% saying between one and two weeks. Some 6% said it stood at longer than three weeks.
When asked what they thought it could be in 12 months' time, 22% said less than a week, 33% said between one to two weeks and 26% said up to three weeks. A further 19% said it could rise to more than three weeks.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said the results were "no surprise".
He told the magazine: "The frustration is that all of the parties in the election campaign at the moment seem to be failing to address these really important issues that patients and GPs are so bothered about. None of the parties are really coming forward with any credible solutions for recruiting new GPs and making general practice attractive to young doctors."