Third of patients struggle contacting GP practice

By Jess Hacker
16 December 2022 (GP Online)

Nearly a third of patients (29%) find it difficult to contact their GP practice, new data has revealed.

And, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than half (52%) of people who made an appointment in the last month reported that doing so was difficult or very difficult.

A further 22% reported not being able to get a GP appointment at all.

And one-in-five (20%) adults reported managing their condition themselves because of barriers they experienced when making a GP appointment.

It comes after NHS England’s primary care director warned that practices need to find ways to prevent the morning ‘eight o’clock rush’ of calls from patients who struggle to get through to the surgery.

The latest NHS data, however, shows that GP practices in England delivered a record 36 million appointments in October.

It is the highest number since NHS Digital began publishing the number of appointments, including Covid jabs, in December 2020.

The ONS’ survey – published this week – marks the first in a series of monthly insights into how the increasing cost-of-living and difficulty accessing NHS services are impacting people’s lives and wellbeing.

The survey also assessed the worsening impact of the elective care waiting list, which currently stands at 7 million people.

Around a third (34%) of adults currently waiting to start NHS treatment reported that the wait has had a strong negative impact on their life.

When asked whether they had paid for private medical care in the past year because they felt the wait for NHS treatment was too long, around one-in-eight (13%) adults said they had, with 7% paying for it themselves.

So how does Grimethorpe Surgery compare?

We are no better. Some patients will consider it’s even worse, although it likely is very similar.

We have two phone lines. One for Grimethorpe and one for Cudworth. And once a patient is on the line, other patients can’t get through and receive an engaged tone.

Although this is a national (maybe even international) problem, we frequently will receive angry responses from patients who have tried repeatedly to get through to us on the phones. And we share their frustration.

Our plan was to have a queuing system in place from the 1st of January (or the 3rd as the 1st and 2nd of January are bank holidays). And then ….
Over the last two weeks, the surgery has been struck with significant sickness absences. One member of staff after the other was struck down with flu-like illnesses. Or, actually, several at the same time.
This meant that the plans needed to be put on the back burner as the assistant practice manager and practice manager needed to jump in as relief receptionists. No chance to prepare for the queuing system during this time.
We haven’t given up hope yet, but it’s probably more realistic to accept it’s unlikely we will have the system in place by the start of the New Year. It should be soon after the start of the New Year, though.

Just hang in there with us.