GPs hard to contact in north central London

North central London patients have among the worst contact with GP practices in England, according to a major new national poll.

By Andrew Dowdeswell, Data Reporter

two people in a doctor's waiting room
Photo: RADAR

North central London patients have among the worst contact with GP practices in England, according to a major new national poll.

The Royal College of GPs said it shared the frustrations of patients who could not access their GP, with 8.7% of people nationally unable to make contact.

The NHS England and Office for National Statistics survey is based on responses from a sample of nearly 90,000 adults aged 16 and over in England.

All the figures have been age-standardised, which means they consider population size and age structure to ensure a fair comparison between different groups.

It showed 12.7% of people registered to a GP practice in the NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board were unable to contact their doctor, receptionist or another clinician at their registered practice the last time they tried.

This was among the highest in the country, meaning patients in north central London have among the worst contact with their GP practice.

A further 14.9% were able to get in touch with their GP, but it took at least two days.

Nationally, 11.9% of patients had to wait at least two days to contact their practice.

Meanwhile, patients who successfully contacted their GP practice were asked what their next step was. Some 4.3% were told to call back another day, while 6.1% were given an appointment at least two weeks after they made contact.

Dr Margaret Ikpoh, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We know how much our patients value the care that GPs and our teams offer, and we share their frustrations when they struggle to access it when they need to.”

She added GPs provided “positive experiences for most patients”, despite underfunding and poor workforce planning.

The survey also showed 63.7% of patients across the country said their experience of their GP practice was “good or very good”.

In north central London, this fell to 56.8%, while a further 19% said their experience was poor or very poor.

The survey also revealed the proportion of patients waiting 12 months or more for treatment or assessments.

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s general practice committee for England, said it is unsurprising patients are unable to get a timely appointment due to a lack of adequate funding and resources.

“We all want the same thing: GPs want to be able to see their patients, and patients want to be able to see their GP,” he added.

In north central London, 13.8% of patients said they were waiting for at least 12 months for a hospital appointment or test, or to begin medical treatment with the NHS.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “The official published statistics on NHS waiting lists actually show 6.3 million patients were on NHS waiting lists as of the end of January and only 4.2% of waits were over a year.

“Work is ongoing to reduce the longest waits for patients but despite pressures and industrial action, hardworking NHS staff ensured the Covid backlog has fallen for four months in a row and 18-month waits are down almost 90% on their peak.

“In terms of GP care, almost two-thirds of people are happy with their experience, and millions more are being given appointments compared to before the pandemic.”

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