One in six patients seeking an appointment with their family doctor in Wigan had to wait a week or more, a survey shows.
The Royal College of GPs said the findings were concerning, and that there is a risk of people not getting the treatment they need to prevent medical conditions becoming more serious.
Of the GP patients in the Wigan Borough CCG who responded to the NHS’s annual GP Survey, 17 per cent had to wait seven or more days to see a GP or nurse last time they booked an appointment.
In the area, the issue was most pronounced at Aspull Surgery, where 45 per cent of patients had to wait a week or longer to see a GP or nurse.
At the other end of the scale, only three per cent of patients faced a week’s delay at Dr D’Arifat and Partners in Sherwood Drive, Pemberton.
Last year Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to ensure all doctor’s surgeries would open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, unless they proved there was no demand.
The survey shows that only 73 per cent of patients in the Wigan Borough CCG are happy with the appointment times available to them.
It means five per cent of patients ended up not accepting the last appointment they were offered, over a quarter of them because they were not available soon enough.
Of those who did not take an appointment, 11 per cent went on to visit A&E – the service which extended GP hours are supposed to relieve.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As well as being frustrating for patients, and GPs, this is concerning as it means patients might not be getting the treatment they need in the early stages of their condition – and their conditions will potentially become more serious.
The plain truth is that existing GPs and our teams are working to absolute capacity and we just don’t have enough GPs to offer enough appointments.”
The Royal College of GPs believe an extra £2.5bn a year on top of what has already been promised by NHS England is required to keep GP services working effectively, added Prof Stokes-Lampard.
Wigan Borough CCG chair Dr Tim Dalton said: “The patient survey shows that the majority of local residents are happy with the care they get from their GP and that we perform better than most other areas in the country in this survey.
“However, we recognise that whilst we perform better than the national average, only 73 per cent of patients are happy with the appointments times available.
“All patients in Wigan borough, regardless of their practice opening times, can get evening and weekend appointments through the local GP Extended Hours service which provided 35,000 evening and weekend appointments last year.
“We also recognise that whilst over three quarters of people are seen within a couple of days, some do end up waiting a week for an appointment.
“The truth is that before we can decide whether this is acceptable or not, we have to understand what the appointment was for and we don’t have that information in the survey.
“If you need urgent medical help, it is absolutely not acceptable to wait a week. However, if you need a routine appointment for an ongoing, managed condition, then it might be better to wait a week to see your particular doctor.”