The average waiting times for a routine GP appointment now exceeds two weeks, according to a Pulse survey.
The annual survey, published on Monday, had responses from 901 GPs across the UK.
For the first time, the average waiting time for a non-urgent concern has increased to 15 days, and 22 per cent of the surveyed GPs said the wait time for a routine appointment was more than three weeks. A total of six per cent said the waiting time was longer than four weeks.
More than 30 per cent of the responding GPs further added that the average appointment wait time was between two and three weeks, while 20 per cent said the average wait time was less than a week.
Responding to the GP survey, the British Medical Association said longer waiting times highlight challenges of delivering care.
“Waiting times are a key indicator of the pressure on services and these latest figures highlight the reality of the capacity issues that many GP practices across the country are facing,” said Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair.
“What is clear, however, is that despite the best efforts of practices, patient demand is continuing to grow and with it the rise in the number of those with increasingly complex and chronic conditions where longer and multiple appointments are necessary.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, stressed the need for more GPs to avoid waiting times getting worse.
“When patients need to see a GP or member of the practice team urgently, we are working incredibly hard to ensure they can get access – and this is reflected in the most recent NHS figures. But people are waiting too long for routine appointments, and the concern is that non-serious conditions might deteriorate, or patient’s give up trying to see the GP and we miss signs of serious illness early when it could be dealt with simply and more cost-effectively in primary care,” she said.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has taken the result of the survey with a pinch of salt.
A DHSC spokesperson told Pharmacy Business: “This survey represents a small fraction of GPs, and the latest official NHS data shows two in three appointments happen within seven days of being booked, but we are determined to reduce GP waiting times further.”