Almost 1 million turn to A&E because unable to see a GP, according to patient survey

940,000 patients turned to A&E because they were unable to get a GP appointment.

940,000 patients turned to A&E because they were unable to get a GP appointment

More than one in 10 people were unable to get an appointment to see or speak to a GP or Practice Nurse the last time they tried, according to the latest GP Patient Survey.

According to the survey, 10.91 per cent of those questioned were unable to see a qualified medical professional, up from 8.85 per cent in 2011.

This means that 5,875,700 people were unable to get an appointment – an increase of over 1 million from 2011.

The GP Patient Survey asked those who could not get an appointment or were given appointments that were inconvenient what they did on that occasion. Of those, 9.75 per cent of people went to A&E or a walk-in centre. Using the population estimate, this equates to 941,646 people – up from 862,491 in the same period last year.

The coalition scrapped Labour’s guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours in 2011, describing it as “no longer a priority”.

The Conservative-led coalition also removed the financial incentives for GPs to improve access to appointments in the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) which was part of the 2004 GP contract.

And the coalition cut the funding for Labour’s extended opening hours scheme from £3.01 per registered patient to £1.90.

As well as these changes, the coalition relaxed the GP contract, meaning that practices only had to open for an extra 30 minutes and appointments could be offered by any healthcare professional, instead of strictly by a GP.

Commenting on the survey results, Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham MP said:

“David Cameron talks about the increase in A&E attendances as if it’s nothing to do with him, but these figures show he should take responsibility for driving people to A&E. He’s made it harder to get a GP appointment and it’s getting even worse, contributing to the current crisis in A&E.

“It is yet more proof that the NHS as we know it won’t survive another five years of David Cameron. The next Labour government will guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours, or on the same day if you need it, and also give people the right to book further ahead with the GP of their choice. We will rescue the NHS with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care fund – on top of Tory spending plans – to fund new staff, including 8,000 more GPs.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.