Almost a quarter of patients seeking an appointment with their family doctor in South Tyneside had to wait a week or more, a survey shows.
The Royal College of GPs said the findings were concerning, and that there is a risk of people not getting the treatment they need to prevent medical conditions becoming more serious.
Of the GP patients in the South Tyneside CCG who responded to the NHS’s annual GP Survey, 22% had to wait a week or more to see a GP or nurse last time they booked an appointment. Five years ago, just 14% had to wait that long.
In the area, the issue was most pronounced at Ellison View Surgery in Hebburn, where 49% of patients had to wait a week or longer to see a GP or nurse. At the other end of the scale, only 4% of patients faced a week’s delay at Marsden Road Health Centre in South Shields.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside CCG said: “South Tyneside CCG welcomes the results of the national GP Patient Survey which among other things highlights that 86% of patients in South Tyneside describe their overall GP Practice experience as good. This shows that patients appreciate the fantastic job our GPs are doing despite the challenges facing primary care.
“We recognise that there are areas for improvement and this is something that the CCG is working on with GP practices. We are supporting a number of initiatives including online services to increase choice and improve how patients can access GP appointments and repeat prescriptions.
“If you’re requesting an appointment with a named GP, that may mean a longer wait, but urgent same day appointments will always be available for patients who really need them, either at their own GP practice or through extended access appointments across the borough.”
Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to ensure all doctor’s surgeries would open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, unless they proved there was no demand.
The survey shows that only 70% of patients in the South Tyneside CCG are happy with the appointment times available to them.
It means that 5% of patients in the area ended up not accepting the last appointment they were offered.
Of those who did not take an appointment, 10% went on to visit a hospital A&E – the service which extended GP hours are supposed to be taking the strain off.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Patients are still waiting too long for a GP appointment, and too many are not getting an appointment when they want one.
“As well as being frustrating for patients, and GPs, this is concerning as it means patients might not be getting the treatment they need in the early stages of their condition – and their conditions will potentially become more serious.
“The plain truth is that existing GPs and our teams are working to absolute capacity and we just don’t have enough GPs to offer enough appointments.
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock has identified workforce and prevention as two of his top priorities – if he is serious about tackling the GP workforce crisis, and keeping patients out of hospital where care is far costlier, it is essential that the Government invests properly in general practice.”
The Royal College of GPs believe an extra £2.5bn a year on top of what has already been promised by NHS England is required to keep GP services working effectively, added Professor Stokes-Lampard.