Two-thirds of patients must wait 48 hours to see a GP while a tenth wait two WEEKSPatients struggle for timely access to a doctor, according to a surveySome are forced to wait a fortnight for a consultationNearly half say they are unhappy with local health service

By
Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:

01:05 GMT, 22 March 2013

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UPDATED:

01:10 GMT, 22 March 2013

Almost two-thirds of patients say they struggle to get an appointment with a GP within two days, according to new research

Almost two-thirds of patients say they struggle to get an appointment with a GP within two days, according to new research

Two thirds of patients do not think their out-of-hours GP is safe, a report warns today.

Nearly half of those who had to use their local service within the last two years were unhappy with the standard of care.

Almost one in three said they weren’t able to see a doctor even though they specifically asked for a consultation.

A report by the Patients Association today warns that the state of out of hours care is in ‘desperate need of review.’

Concerns have been growing ever since GPs were able to opt-out working evenings and weekends under a controversial contract negotiated in 2004.

Many areas now sub-contract care to private firms who have been accused of running services on the cheap to maximise profits.

Last year it emerged that the country’s largest out-of-hours provider, Harmoni, had hired a doctor who turned up to a patient’s house so drunk he could not speak.

The Patients Association surveyed 1,500 patients about their experiences of GP services both during working hours and at evenings and weekends.

A total of 65 per cent said they would not feel safe relying on their out-of-hours services if they had an urgent medical problem.

Another 47 per cent were unhappy with care they have received in the last two years and 29 per cent said they couldn’t make contact with a doctor.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said: ‘Public confidence in out-of-hours services is worryingly low and that is not always as easy as it should be to get an appointment with a GP.

‘We need an NHS in every community that operates effectively, safely and compassionately during and outside office hours.’

It also found that 60 per cent of patients had to wait two days before they could get an appointment during normal working hours with 10 per cent waiting longer than a fortnight.

And 57 per cent said it was difficult trying to get through on the phone whilst trying to book a consultation.

Some patients were also concerned that their surgeries employed locum GPs who could not speak English.

The survey also found 65 per cent of patients do not feel safe relying on out-of-hours services

The survey also found 65 per cent of patients do not feel safe relying on out-of-hours services

One said: ‘The quality of GPs in East
London is extremely poor, with the extensive use of locums whose basic
communication skills are poor.. It’s very difficult to specify that you
want a female doctor through my practice.’

Another unnamed patient said: ‘Having to phone on the day to get an
appointment – being held in a queue on a premium rate phone line only to
be told that all appointments have been taken is extremely
frustrating.'

One patient described their GP as ‘incompetent’ and said they had resorted to diagnosing their ailments on the internet.

They added: ‘I generally have to find solutions to my health issues via
the internet, I would like a GP who was aware that he didn’t know
everything, was more prepared to undertake tests and who didn’t tell me
results were normal when they weren’t. I regard my GP as incompetent.’

Harmoni, which provides out of hours services for eight million
patients, is currently under investigation by the Care Quality
Commission over safety concerns.

Last October, seven week old Axel Peanburg King died from pneumonia
after staff working for the firm downgraded his case from ‘urgent’ to
routine.

The baby was put in a queue behind six other patients in the waiting room.

Despite repeated phone-calls and trips to the clinic by his mother Linda, doctors failed to realise he was dangerously ill.