Responding to a survey from the Liberal Democrats about what people did when they were unable to book a GP appointment1, Dr Richard Van Mellaerts, BMA England GP committee deputy chair, said:
"While self-care and consulting other services such as pharmacies and NHS 111 will often be the right thing to do for many minor health conditions, it is worrying if patients feel forced into inappropriate courses of action because they are struggling to book an appointment for an issue that requires the attention of a GP or a member of practice staff.
"The mismatch between capacity and demand is a symptom of the worsening crisis facing general practice and the NHS as a whole and is a frustration we share because it means we can’t deliver the timely care that we want to. GPs are working around the clock to try and keep up with unprecedented demand, offering around 7 in 10 appointments face-to-face, as well as remote consultations where safe to do so and also seeing patients in their own homes. In fact, almost 33 million appointments were delivered in England in November alone.
"As the Liberal Democrats point out, we desperately need more GPs and strong retention policies, like reviewing punitive pension tax rules. But to make the promise that patients would be guaranteed a GP appointment within one week is an impossible task without the Government and politicians from all sides truly understanding the issues facing the health service and staff on the ground. The NHS needs to be a place where people want to train, work, and stay, which is why unnecessary bureaucracy in general practice must also be scrapped; pay erosion addressed; and NHS estates finally made fit for purpose.
"Without this, we risk losing the precious few GPs we have left, and the ability for the NHS to provide any kind of primary care service at all."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- Please contact the Liberal Democrats for details.