More than 48,000 patients in our area waited more than two weeks for a GP appointment in September, new research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. This made up 1 in 6 of all GP appointments that month, up from 1 in 10 in January.
Across the country, over five million GP appointments took more than two weeks in September, making up 17.9% of all GP visits.
The Liberal Democrats said the “alarming figures” show that patients in Hitchin and Harpenden are being let down. It comes as the Liberal Democrats have set out plans for patients to have a right to see their GP within a week, or within 24 hours if in urgent need.
The policy would enshrine this right in the NHS Constitution, putting a duty on the government and health service to make sure it happens. It would be achieved by increasing the number of GPs, fixing pension rules to prevent so many doctors retiring early, and increasing the number of nurses and pharmacists who are fully qualified to prescribe day to day medicines.
The proposals are being set out by Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey at a major Autumn speech this weekend, which is being attended by local health campaigners.
Sam Collins, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden, said:
“These alarming figures show our local health service is being driven into the ground under this Conservative government.
“Behind these statistics are so many people and families in Hitchin & Harpenden anxiously waiting for an appointment for worrying symptoms. Many are being seen far far too late.
“I am proud that Liberal Democrats have put forward a credible plan to ensure everyone is seen by a GP within one week. It should be implemented with urgency to save our local health service and finally give people in Hertfordshire a fair deal.
“Every day this Government’s promises become more and more hollow. The sad truth is they are disinterested in our NHS, and refuse to take action to pull it back from the brink. People in Hertfordshire will pay the price if this government continues to take us for granted and sit on their hands”
“The problem is very serious, there are not enough GP’s, and access to surgeries is getting harder, as residents of Kimpton for example know too well. The Government needs to take urgent action to get more people to train as GPs, by increasing places in the relevant training courses and facilities.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey added:
“Far too many people in Hertfordshire and across the country are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one, leaving them waiting anxiously for the care they deserve.
“This can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, or people turning in desperation to our overstretched A&E departments instead.
“Patients are suffering from years of neglect under the Conservatives, who have repeatedly broken their promise to recruit more GPs.
“Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week, or within 24 hours if they are in urgent need. This would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.”