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Home » A third of Brits have difficulty accessing their GP. Local health reforms aren’t working, says expert.

A third of Brits have difficulty accessing their GP. Local health reforms aren’t working, says expert.

by Leah Llano

New official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Government’s new community healthcare plans. They reveal that 30.9% of patients found it difficult or very difficult to access their GP surgery during January and February. 19.7% of patients who contacted their local practice rated their experience as fairly or very poor.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘Local medical services are always pushed hard in January and February, but one of the disappointing things to emerge from the latest figures is that changes in the way we access local healthcare are not having a notable impact.

‘The results also reveal that 8.5% of people trying to contact their GP failed to make contact entirely and 11.5% took two or more days before they succeeded. Of those, 12% were given appointments over two weeks after contact.

‘Disappointingly, only 4.5% of patients were able to book their GP or practice appointment through the NHS App. Clearly, more needs to be done to integrate local practices with this service, which has the potential to transform access.

‘More disappointingly still, given the new wider role community pharmacies have been given in diagnosing and prescribing for certain conditions, only 2.6% of patients were recommended to go straight to their pharmacy.

‘People need to know that community pharmacies can now speed up treatments and take the pressure off surgeries by directly prescribing medications for certain conditions. Your local pharmacy can now supply prescription-only treatment, if they believe it’s needed, for the following conditions:

  • Sinusitis (for patients aged 12 years and over only)
  • Sore throat (aged 5+)
  • Earache (aged 1-17 years)
  • Infected insect bite (aged 1 year+)
  • Impetigo (aged 18 years+)
  • Shingles (aged 18 years+)
  • Urinary tract infections (women aged 16 to 64)

‘Clearly, more needs to be done to increase the public’s awareness of these new services, thereby alleviating pressure on GP practices. However, we should not be too quick to worry about access to healthcare. While these latest figures look alarming and, indeed, are concerning, 72.5% of determined patients did manage to contact their GP practice on the same day and 64.3% rated their experience as very or fairly good.

‘For those still concerned about easy access to healthcare, it’s also useful to know that revolutionary new blood tests introduced in the last few years mean people have swift access to a vast array of information about their own health through a simple finger-prick blood test, which can even be taken in their own home.

‘For example, London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile blood test monitors seven key areas of health. It includes muscle and bone profile, liver & kidney function, risk of diabetes (by checking levels of HbA1c), cholesterol levels, iron levels and even the risk of gout.

‘Not only is a blood test easy to book, either online or at participating pharmacies and health stores, but it can complement the role of the NHS by identifying problems before any symptoms have shown. London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile blood test can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 120 selected pharmacies and health stores.

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