Some sufferers are resorting to self-treatment because they can’t get a face-to-face appointment with their GP, according to new research.
A survey by Savanta ComRes found that in the past 12 months more than a quarter of adults have tried to get a personal consultation with a GP in their area but have been unable to do so.
While some delayed seeing a doctor or forgoing it entirely, the survey found that one in six (16%) of people who couldn’t get an appointment either did the treatment themselves or had someone else who isn’t qualified to do it medical.
The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the study, said the results were a “national scandal” and blamed years of “mismanagement and neglect” of local health services by the government.
A survey of more than 2,000 adults found that three in four (72%) had tried to make an appointment with a GP in their area in the past year, with 43% being successful and 29% They were not.
Of those who failed, a third (32%) said they had delayed seeing their GP despite the pain, and nearly as many (31%) had simply given up trying to make an appointment.
One in four (24%) said they had bought medicine from a pharmacy or online without a doctor’s advice, and one in five (19%) had gone to the emergency room.
One in 10 (11%) paid for a private consultation and another 10% traveled a long distance to find a doctor’s office offering appointments.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said the government had repeatedly broken promises to recruit more doctors and called on ministers to bring in another 8,000 GPs.
“It’s a national scandal. Face-to-face GP visits have almost died out in some areas of the country, he said.
“We now have a devastating situation where people are self-medicating and even self-prescribing because they cannot see their local GP.
“The British public is paying its fair share of the NHS, but years of mismanagement and neglect by the government of local health services have left millions unable to see their GP.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said there were nearly 2,300 full-time doctors working in general practice last September compared to September 2019, and the number of GPs was also a record.
“We recognize the pressure GPs are under and are working to increase access for patients,” a spokesperson said.
“GP teams delivered 80,000 more visits each working day this year compared to last year, and we plan to deliver over a million more visits this winter by strengthening GP teams with other specialists.
“The guidelines are clear that GP surgeries must provide face-to-face meetings as well as remote consultations – and more than two-thirds of appointments in November were face-to-face.”
Dr Margaret Ikpoh, vice-president of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We want our patients to receive appropriate and timely care, but difficulties in accessing our services are a consequence of underfunded, underfunded and understaffed service staff working under unsustainable pressures.
“While we understand that difficulties in obtaining GP appointments will lead some patients to take matters into their own hands and turn to the internet or attempt to ‘cure’ themselves, we encourage them to use reputable NHS accredited resources that are written and have ensured quality by qualified and experienced doctors.
“However, while self-care has an important role to play, some patients will need the expertise, knowledge and skills that only a GP or a member of the practice team can provide.”
– Savanta ComRes conducted online interviews with 2,061 British adults aged 18 and over between December 9 and 11.