According to the BBC, some patients have been waiting as long as seven weeks for a routine GP appointment. Those patients who require urgent GP appointments either face long queues on the phone or an early morning queue outside of their GP practice to try to secure an appointment. It may well be a vicious circle with some patients perhaps not being prepared to wait up to seven weeks to be seen, but calling the next morning for an urgent appointment.
The number of GPs per 100,00 people have, according to analysis by the Nuffield Trust think tank, dropped from almost 65 in 2014 to 60 in 2018. This means that in comparison to 2014, the average doctor now has 125 more patients to care for.
It would seem that the NHS has struggled to fill training places for GPs and the surgeries themselves have had difficulties filling their own GP vacancies.
So what is being done to try to address the problem?
The NHS are trying to increase the number of support staff to work alongside the GPs in the surgeries, such as pharmacists and nurse practitioners. NHS England have said that they will fund 22,000 additional practice staff by 2023-2024.
The government has also pledged 5,000 more GPs by 2020. It would appear that NHS England are even seeking to recruit GPs from Australia to help fight the shortfall. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard “Australia is the first country we have evaluated because we know their training and experience is similar to that of the UK and there are doctors wanting to come to the UK but it has always been an arduous process for them. The streamlined system is intended to cut out a huge amount of bureaucracy, and bring these doctors into placements and work much quicker than before.”