Snap survey - Patients ignored health conditions after GP waits

GP appointments

GP appointments in Norfolk and Waveney. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than 35pc of people have said they ignored their health conditions or concerns after failing to get an appointment with their GP in the Waveney area.

With surgeries across Norfolk and Waveney continuing to operate under immense pressure, the region now has just one GP for every 2,017 people due to a growing population and declining staff numbers.

All GP practices have been told they must offer patients the choice of face-to-face appointments.

All GP practices have been told they must offer patients the choice of face-to-face appointments. - Credit: PA

This has meant surgeries face an uphill battle to meet demand - and some patients are going unseen.

In a snap survey carried out by The Journal, new data has this week revealed that 36pc of respondents simply ignored their medical problems due to not being able to see their GP.

However, with hundreds of people from across Norfolk and Waveney taking part in the survey, and sharing varying experiences of the region's primary care, a quarter of the participants said they would rate the GP service they received as a five out of five.

Graphic showing how satisfied survey participants were with their GP service

Graphic showing how satisfied survey participants were with their GP service - Credit: Archant

With the survey asking people what they thought of their GP services, questions also centred around access to their GP and how long they had to wait for appointments.

When asked how long they had to wait for an appointment 36pc of people in Waveney said they had been seen on the same day - which was the highest total for respondents in the region.

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The next highest figure was 29pc of people claiming they waited between seven days and a month - which was also the highest total for respondents in the region.

Graphic showing how GP appointments were held according to our survey

Graphic showing how GP appointments were held according to our survey - Credit: Archant

In third place 14pc of people said they had an appointment the next day.

When asked 'Have you taken any of the following steps at not having seen a GP?' 36pc of people responding said they ignored their problem, while 21pc attended the accident and emergency department at a hospital.

The survey saw 14pc of people admit they had called 111 to seek health advice after not being able to see a GP.

With the survey asking: 'Have you had difficulties in contacting your surgery on the phone?' 71pc of respondents said 'yes' - which was the second highest figure in the region just behind the Broadland area.

The survey also revealed 36pc of appointments were performed over the phone, with 54pc being face-to-face appointments while 7pc said they were unable to make an appointment.

One respondent said: "Everything done over the phone. Never met or spoken with my GP."

Another person said: "Never get to see the same doctor twice."

Another said: "Utterly unacceptable, us pensioners are treated as third class citizens."

However someone else responded: "Fantastic service as always. Phone appointments only but followed by face-to-face if doctor thinks it's necessary, usually the same day."

When asked how satisfied people were with their GP, 7pc gave the lowest rating while 37pc gave the highest rating, which was on a one to five scale.

In March, Norfolk and Waveney GPs honoured 419,706 appointments in person, against 144,960 via the telephone.

Dr Tim Morton, chairman of the Local Medical Committee

Dr Tim Morton, chairman of the Local Medical Committee - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Leading GP, Tim Morton, who is chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee and a GP at Beccles Medical Centre, said: "GPs share the frustration that many patients express.

"GP practices want to see and help their patients but have been faced with an NHS struggling in all areas.

"GP practices on a daily basis triage all calls in order to assess and treat those most in need with the resources available.

Dr Tim Morton

Dr Tim Morton - Credit: Archant

"This is the safest way in helping those patients in most clinical need as opposed to the demands of a population to meet all requests.

"By using the lessons gained in the pandemic practices have seen the value of telephone consultations as safely meeting part of this demand.

"All practices see patients when clinically necessary and utilising the skills of the wider team such as practice pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, physician associates, paramedics and mental health workers.

"Every day, GPs and their teams are dealing with more appointments than they can safely accommodate.

"This has an impact in patient safety terms.

"The waiting lists in general practice will only keep growing."