Primary Care: Access Denied

Published on Friday, 22 March 2013 10:42
Posted by Scott Buckler

As many as three quarters of people (79%) wouldn't feel safe relying on NHS out-of-hours services in a medical emergency according to new research by The Patients Association

The report 'Primary Care: Access Denied' uncovers new evidence that; almost two thirds of people (61%) have to wait longer than forty eight hours to book an appointment with their GP and more than half (57%) said the process was either 'very difficult' or 'could have been easier'.

These findings, compiled from a survey of patients and the public, also found more than a third of people (38%) have had to take at least a day off from work to attend an appointment with their GP.

In the last year there has been a huge rise in the number of calls to The Patients Association Helpline about primary care, and in particular GP services.

Patients are telling the charity's Helpline that they face day to day challenges in accessing local community based healthcare, and a lack of confidence and understanding about when and where to seek help when their GP practice is closed.

The Patients Association 'calls to action' for primary care are:

·         NHS Commissioning Board should review emergency care across sectors, not just at A&E departments but at primary care level, to reduce costly admissions and keep care local.

·         The Government, the NHS and GPs need to work together to expand choice and access to primary care services by addressing barriers to appointments both during and outside office hours. Individuals should have the right to choose any GP surgery based on their needs, not restrictive geographical boundaries.

·         CCG's should lead in delivering better local awareness campaigns to help improve patients understanding of when to use the range of services available, such as: Urgent Care Clinics, walk-in centres, NHS 111 and NHS Direct.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said

"As many as 9 out of 10 public interactions with the health and social care system are through primary care, including GP services, so it is essential we make sure access is fair to all. What our survey shows is that public confidence in out-of-hours services is worryingly low and that is not always as easy as it should be to get an appointment with a GP.

The majority of people are forced to take time off work simply to have a check-up and almost two thirds have to wait longer than 48 hours for an appointment.

We need an NHS in every community that operates effectively, safely and compassionately during and outside office hours. Keeping people out of hospital and living independent, healthier lifestyles means delivering more integrated and accessible community based care.

Our calls to action set out clear steps towards this vision."

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