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GP appointment demand rocketed in February

GP appointment demand rocketed in February
By Eliza Parr
26 April 2023

Half a million more people – 18.3 million in total – tried to get a GP appointment in mid- to late February compared to earlier in the winter, new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.

The ONS winter survey sampled the same 4,494 people over two periods from 22 November to 8 January, and from 15 to 26 February. 

In February, 35% of respondents tried to make an appointment with their GP practice, which amounts to roughly 18.3 million people. This was an increase of 500,000 on the previous period, when 17.8 million people (34%) tried to make an appointment.

The survey also showed that one in five (21%) people were waiting for a hospital appointment, a test or to start receiving treatment through the NHS. 

This amounts to just under 11 million people waiting for hospital treatment overall, but the percentage was higher among disabled adults, with 31% of this group persistently falling into this category across both surveys. 

The aim was to track participants across the two periods in order to understand how pressures such as the cost of living crisis and difficulty accessing NHS services had impacted them. 

As well as disabled people, those experiencing moderate to severe depression were more likely to be waiting for NHS services, with a quarter of respondents persistently reporting this and 35% in the February period.

And this group was more likely to have tried to book a GP appointment, with just over half having done so in the latest survey. 

One respondent said accessing the NHS has been ‘the biggest issue for me, and for other members of the family’.

While another respondent said ‘the unknown length of time waiting for an operation does sometimes cause anxiety when I think about it too much’. 

Earlier this month, NHS figures for cancer waiting times showed that 42% of patients are waiting more than 62 days for first treatment from urgent GP referral.

Last week, as part of a series of NHS analysis and statements from shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, Labour claimed that almost five million patients have waited more than two weeks for a GP appointment each month since September.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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