4 Million Now Queue for Same-Day Appointments

In this week’s blog, Lee Dentith – CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group – looks at yet more worrying statistics concerning primary healthcare access in the UK.

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The winter flu season may finally be over, but sadly the pressure on NHS surgeries continues to mount. Another day, another series of statistics revealed from a rather damning survey of over 9,000 UK patients from across the country.

What stood out most to me was the fact that the number of people forced to physically queue for an appointment at their local NHS surgery has risen to an astonishing FOUR MILLION. Elderly and unwell patients are, in some cases, forced to queue outside the surgery doors in order to get seen on the same day – some are arriving at surgeries at daybreak and still face waits of several hours.

Our surgeries are often so overwhelmed by demand that they are routinely asking patients to wait outside, with those in the Patients Association condemning the situation as unacceptable – prolonging the suffering and discomfort of those who are often in urgent need of medical help.

When it comes to appointment waiting times, the numbers simply continue to get worse and worse – immigration, a shortage of doctors and an increasingly-ageing population are three major contributing factors for why patients in this country are continuing to suffer. The current model of healthcare in the UK just isn’t working, and the stats revealed from this latest survey make this simply undeniable.

Of 9,116 patients surveyed – all of which were in their over 50s – 33% said that they were unable to secure an appointment with a GP within seven days. Incredibly, up to two million are forced to wait for three weeks or more for an appointment, while many patients are routinely made to wait over one month just to see a doctor.

It’s not just the actual appointments which patients are queuing for, either – surgeries receive countless calls each morning from patients requesting to be seen, with many on hold for anywhere between 20 minutes to one hour.

A news article looks in depth at these figures, focusing on surgeries in South England which have become notorious for their lengthy waiting times. North Street Medical Centre (Romford, Essex) allegedly sees as many as 50 people queueing outside of the surgery doors each morning with receptionists admitting that patients “struggle to get a seat” when they do eventually make it into the waiting room. Another surgery in South East London sees queues which are 30-strong with patients regularly waiting up to two and a half hours to be seen.

The Royal College of GPs has pointed towards a shortage of doctors as a major reason for this, with nine in ten surgeries now forced to rely on locums because they are so short of permanent GPs.

To be frank, things need to change and they need to change now. The NHS system continues to creak under continued pressure, and it’s a system which is failing to attract new doctors and one which is also failing its patients.

Our vision as an mHealth organisation is to provide patients and GPs with a much-needed alternative. Our platform embraces flexible working hours for doctors to help them enjoy working in healthcare once again. We give patients the chance to speak to a MRCGP-certified doctor within a ten minute window via smartphone-based video call. We can even arrange for you to have your medicines delivered to your home or work address.

As a nation we need to think about the way we access and offer healthcare and think differently and smarter. We have the technology in place to ensure that patients aren’t forced to physically queue for appointments – it’s archaic and there is no place for it in today’s on-the-go society. It’s time for change, and it’s time to embrace mHealth.