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Public concern about the NHS soars as delays accessing A&E and GP services rise

by Leah Llano
A series of new official figures shows public confidence in the NHS has been shaken by increased delays in accessing A&E and GP services. With 88% of Brits saying the NHS is one of the most important issues facing the UK today, it’s no surprise that more people are turning to alternatives, says a leading expert.

A series of new official figures from the Government’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows public confidence in the NHS is faltering in the wake of increased Accident & Emergency (A&E) waiting times and difficulties accessing GP surgeries.

The new data reveals a shocking 88% of Brits say the state of the NHS is one of the most important issues we face today. That’s as high as their concern over the cost of living, and significantly higher than worries over the economy (75%), immigration (56%) or climate change (62%).

The reason for their concern about the NHS isn’t hard to identify. Separate reports from the ONS reveal the percentage of A&E attendances waiting longer than four hours in England increased from 8.1% in January 2013 to 42.4% in September 2023. And its latest figures, from 14-25 February 2024, reveal 37% of patients who attempted to contact their doctor found it difficult or very difficult to make contact with their GP practice.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘As easy access to some vital NHS services falters, there is little wonder that public confidence is falling. In fact, concern over the NHS is growing rapidly, up from 84% a month ago to 88% now. That’s a big jump. More alarmingly, February was the first month since the survey began two years ago that the state of the NHS caused the same level of concern as the cost of living.

‘Further ONS data also reveals that 32% of Brits assessed their average health as only fair, bad or very bad. In all, 67% felt their health was good/very good, down 10% from when the question was first asked in March 2020 – and that was when the Covid-19 crisis was escalating.

‘With these concerning figures in mind, there is little wonder that a YouGov survey has shown that over half (53%) of patients who received some form of private care in the past 12 months had done so in order to be seen more quickly.

‘However, we should not be too quick to worry about access to healthcare. The number of people revealing they had difficulty in accessing GP practices has, in fact, gone up by only 1% since the first time this question was asked by the ONS, back in May 2023. And 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 and kidney function, risk of diabetes (by checking levels of HbA1c), cholesterol levels, iron levels and even the risk of gout. Gout is actually a common and painful form of arthritis that can affect anyone, caused by high levels of uric acid.

‘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. It’s far easier for our stretched health services to treat conditions as early as possible. This helps increase the likelihood of successful outcomes and reduce the increased costs to the NHS associated with later diagnosis.

‘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. For full details, see: https://www.londonmedicallaboratory.com/product/general-health

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