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Nearly 300,000 Patients Waited More Than Four Weeks to Get a GP Appointment in 2023

Published on: 2 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2024

By Martin Giles

Nearly 300,000 patients had to wait more than four weeks to see a GP in Surrey last year.

House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats analysed NHS figures for GP appointment waiting times, comparing the latest figures for 2023 and 2022.

The Surrey Heartlands area covers most of Surrey and the majority of Guildford borough.

The Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership reported in 2023:

  • 1,050,789 patients waited two weeks or more to see a GP, an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year;
  • 294,176 patients waited more than four weeks, an increase of 33 per cent.

The NHS data measures the time between the appointment being booked, and when it took place. The statistics apply to the area covered by Surrey Heartlands ICB, which is most of Guildford borough and most of Surrey, apart from parts of the north-west of the county served by Frimley ICB.

Guildford’s prospective Lib Dem candidate for the next general election, Zöe Franklin, said: “I hear every day how let down and frustrated people are; patients waiting in distress and pain for the attention they need, and dedicated medical staff exhausted by doing their utmost to provide the best care, without the resources and funding they need.

Zoe Franklin

“We have all seen our precious NHS buckling after years of Conservative government neglect. But seeing these latest figures, I am horrified at how badly the Conservatives have failed us.”

The Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for a legal right to a GP appointment within seven days, or within 24 hours for a patient in urgent need, and want this enshrined in the NHS Constitution, putting a duty on the government and health service to make sure it happens. They say it would be achieved by increasing the number of GPs and increasing the number of nurses and pharmacists qualified to prescribe day-to-day medicines.

Ms Franklin continued: “The delay in seeing a GP can mean waiting in pain and distress, and time off work or school. And we all know that early diagnosis of serious health conditions is vital. Our GPs are the first step on that path to further tests and treatment.

“The longer this failing Conservative government limps on, this spiral of neglect will continue. The day this unelected Prime Minister calls a general election cannot come soon enough.” 

Patient satisfaction comparison of three GP practices in Guildford borough shows satisfaction levels vary between surgeries as do wait times.  Source: The NHS’ GP Patient Survey

But Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson, said that reducing waiting times is already one of the government’s top five priorities as this is a key issue for residents across Guildford and the surrounding villages.

Angela Richardson MP

Ms Richardson said: “Whilst the pandemic put strain on health services across Europe, we are turning a corner and the government is intervening to ensure waiting times for GP appointments come down across Surrey.

“Last year, the Department of Health and Social Care allocated £240 million to practices across the country to help them embrace new technologies to end the 8am rush with easy-to-use online tools and modern systems. When someone’s need is urgent, they will be assessed and be allocated a same-day appointment.

“The first-ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will help the government recruit more GPs by providing an additional 6,000 GP training places annually by 2031.

“As a result of the measures taken by this government, I welcome that it has recently met its target of delivering 50 million more GP appointments, and in December 2023, the number of GPs increased for the sixth consecutive month. There has also been a significant drop-off of residents in Guildford contacting me about issues regarding GP access.

“Important progress is being made and I’m confident that the government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan and NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will see waiting times reduced for residents in Guildford.

“I am always happy to hear from constituents about their experiences regarding GP access and I would invite them to email me.”

Anne Rouse

The chair of Guildford Labour, Anne Rouse, was critical of both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. She felt that there could be “no disputing the fact that the Tory and coalition governments have destroyed our NHS.

“There is also no disputing the fact that the Liberal Democrats will not be in a position to enforce any changes. They will not form the next government and Zoe Franklin will not be part of the next government whether she is elected or not.

“The only party that can actually make a change for the better is the Labour Party because they will be the party in government. Labour created the NHS and Labour will protect it and will invest enough funds to get the NHS back on its feet and make it fit for the future. All of its pledges are fully funded.

“The only way the Liberal Democrats could raise the funding is if they stop bombarding us with expensive literature every 5 minutes!

“On a practical level, it takes six years to train a doctor, and a GP needs hospitals which are well-staffed to take on their referrals. So this is not a ‘Single Promise’ problem, it requires a complete overhaul of how the NHS works and responds to needs.

“The next Labour Government will support a more local service, more personal and holistic treatment and it has a fully-funded plan to revamp GP and Community Health Services.”

What is your experience? How long do you have to wait for a GP appointment? Please use the Leave a Comment feature below.

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Responses to Nearly 300,000 Patients Waited More Than Four Weeks to Get a GP Appointment in 2023

  1. M Durant Reply

    March 2, 2024 at 6:30 pm

    The problem is also GP surgeries shutting down and GPs taking only private patients, creating a situation similar to what happened to the NHS dentists which forced to go private because there no NHS dentists available. It creates a downward spiral and it’s very worrying.

    THE Guildford Rivers Practice is shutting down in Milford June. The practice used include St Nicolas Surgery in Buryfields, Guildford. Since it shut in Guildford, some years ago, it was not replaced with another new GP surgery in Guildford, adding more stress to the existing GP system. Now the same will happen in Milford even though a lot more people have come to live in both areas.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 3, 2024 at 5:28 am

    In Guildford this is just one of the consequences of the Tory Local Plan.

    When the GBC Tories forced through the plan, we were promised “no development before infrastructure”. Well now we are seeing just the start of up to 100,000 new residents arriving to live in the 20,000 new homes.

    Access to a GP is one of the most important aspects of infrastructure. Others aspects, such as schools, transport etc, have not been improved, yet the orgy of unwanted development continues apace.

    Editor’s comment: Average house occupancy (ie occupants per home) in Surrey is 2.4. So 20,000 new homes, if built, would equate to 48,000 new residents.

  3. Will Forster Reply

    March 5, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    The Liberal Democrats have said they will invest £4 billion over the next 4 years to deliver 8,000 more GPs and create 65 million more GP appointments.

    We are planning to implement a windfall tax on profits of oil and gas firms, as well as reverse the Conservatives’ banking tax cuts. These measures will more than pay for the GP plan. But the full detail will be set out in our fully costed election manifesto.

    At the party’s autumn conference, we agreed our pre-election manifesto. Please see it here: For a Fair Deal – Liberal Democrats

    Will Forster is the leader of the Lib Dem Group at Surrey County Council

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 6, 2024 at 6:34 am

      Why are so many extra taxes described as “windfall”, as if they were free?

      Companies make profits or go bust. Bankrupt companies make no profit and can pay no taxes; profitable companies pass on tax to their customers, otherwise known as taxpayers.

      It’s not as though people can avoid using oil or gas, or even banks.

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