Headlines: August 6th, 2008

People want to be able to see their GP more easily and they want appointments at more convenient times. These are key findings from a survey by the Healthcare Commission. The survey also revealed most people, when they have overcome the appointment booking problem, are satisfied with the service they receive from their GP.

Patients should be able to see a GP within two working days or another primary care professional, such as a practice nurse, within one working day. The survey showed that 13 percent of respondents who had recently made an appointment reported waiting longer than the 48-hour target time because no earlier appointment was available with any doctor at their local practice. The proportion of respondents who waited two working days or less for their last appointment with a doctor rose from 74 per cent in 2005 to 75 percent this year. Overall 23% of patients who made an appointment felt that they should have been seen sooner than they were.

People are also dissatisfied with GP surgery opening times. A quarter of respondents said that they had at some time been put off going to their GP practice or health centre because the opening times were inconvenient for them, up from 21 percent in 2005. Younger people were considerably more likely to find opening hours inconvenient, with the figure rising to 38 percent among people aged 16 to 35.

Many respondents also reported difficulties getting through to their GP practice or health centre on the phone, with 55 percent saying that they had problems at least some if not all of the time.