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    General Health
    1234 · 20 min read

    Why is it difficult to see a GP now?

    In this article, we're tackling the question many people have been asking themselves recently, just why is it so hard to see a GP these days? We'll break it down and explore why getting a timely appointment with a doctor in the UK can be tricky. We'll look into whether there's a shortage of GPs and why receptionists ask about your health over the phone, as well as other questions people have been asking themselves about visiting their doctor. 

    A GP speaking to a patient

    Why is it hard to see a GP?

    There are a number of different reasons why it can be hard to get an appointment with your GP. This is not just an issue in the UK as patients all over the world are experiencing the same issues. Australian publication The Conversation outlined six possible reasons why it is harder to see your GP, they are:

    • Older Age Profile of Patients with Chronic Illnesses: The increasing number of elderly patients with chronic conditions demands more time and attention from GPs, impacting appointment availability.

    • Financial Viability of General Practice: General practices are facing financial challenges, making it harder for them to maintain the same level of service, affecting accessibility for patients.

    • Decrease in Junior Doctors Choosing General Practice: A decline in the number of junior doctors opting for general practice reduces the overall workforce, contributing to appointment shortages.

    • Departure of Rural GPs: Rural areas are particularly affected as GPs leave their roles, exacerbating the scarcity of healthcare resources in these regions.

    • Mental and Physical Wellbeing of GPs: The increasing toll on GPs' mental and physical health impacts their ability to maintain regular working hours, affecting appointment availability for patients.

    • Global Shortage of Healthcare Workers: The worldwide scarcity of healthcare professionals, including doctors, results in fewer overseas-trained doctors arriving in the UK, exacerbating the shortage of GPs.

    Which reasons have the NHS given for why it is difficult to book a GP appointment?

    The NHS has given a number of reasons why it is difficult to book an appointment with your GP including issues with a lack of doctors, increased demand, and longer waiting times. A surgery in Bristol called Birchwood has outlined a number of measures the NHS are taking to tackle the problem. hiring more staff, like additional nurses, to meet the growing demand. They're also trying new approaches, such as a Prescribing Hub, to streamline processes and allow GPs to focus on more complicated cases. They also encourage patients to use their services wisely to avoid taking up spaces needed for other patients.

    Are there fewer GP's today than previously?

    Yes, according to The Huffington Post, there is a shortage of General Practitioners (GPs) compared to previous times. Factors such as retirements, doctors leaving the profession, and challenges in recruiting new GPs have contributed to a reduction in their numbers. This shortage has implications for the availability of GP appointments, as the demand often exceeds the supply of healthcare professionals.

    Why do GP receptionists ask about your health issue on the phone?

    Receptionists at GP practices ask about your health issue on the phone to help ensure you get the most appropriate care. It's not about being nosy but rather a way to assist patients in seeing the right healthcare professional. This process allows GPs to manage their time effectively, deciding whether an in-person visit is necessary or if a phone call or a consultation with a trainee doctor could be more suitable. However, some patients may find this process off-putting, viewing receptionists as barriers to accessing GPs.

    Is it also difficult to speak with a GP remotely?

    Speaking with a GP remotely has become a more common practice, especially with the use of telehealth services. However, concerns about patient safety are paramount, and GPs will opt for face-to-face consultations if they believe it's necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Dr Sarah Jarvis of Good Housekeeping emphasises that GPs are as concerned about patient safety as the patients themselves. If a patient disagrees with the decision for a remote consultation, it's encouraged to engage in open communication with the GP, asking them to explain their rationale for the chosen approach.

    What are people saying about how hard it is to get an appointment with a GP?

    This is an issue that is causing a lot of people a lot of issues. Public dismay is being expressed both online and in newspapers. In a column in The Guardian, Kenan Malik shared his personal experience highlighting the challenges people face in getting an appointment with a GP. Malik, suffering from a debilitating condition that wasn't an emergency, described the difficulty he encountered when trying to seek medical attention. He noted that there were no available slots on the day he called, and he couldn't secure an appointment for the following days. 

    The general public are also having their say online. A Reddit user in the subreddit r/Nottingham says, “Every time I phone up it's usually 2-3 weeks before I can see a doctor. When I was younger I remember calling the doctor and getting an appointment over the next day or two. What's changed over the years?”

    What are the UK Government doing to make it easier to get an NHS GP appointment?

    The UK Government is trying to make it easier to get NHS GP appointments by allowing pharmacists to supply common prescription medicines, introducing digital tools for quicker appointments, expanding access to contraception at pharmacies, offering more blood pressure checks, and enabling millions to access their GP records on mobile phones. These efforts aim to streamline healthcare services and empower individuals to manage their health more conveniently however, results may vary. 

    Can I still get medical advice by calling 111?

    Yes, according to the British Heart Foundation, you can still get medical advice by calling 111. If you have an urgent medical issue and are unsure about what steps to take, NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you call, a trained adviser can provide advice or connect you to a healthcare professional such as a nurse, doctor, pharmacist, paramedic, or dentist. About half of the individuals who contact 111 are referred to a healthcare professional for further assistance.

    How can an online prescription service like UK Meds help patients?

    At UK Meds, we make it easy for you to get the prescription medications you need online. We're not a replacement for talking to a doctor, but our service helps you quickly and safely access the medications you need. Our simple process involves an online consultation, which if approved, provides you with a free prescription issued by an independent pharmacist prescriber. We provide a range of products including prescription-only medications like Ventolin, weight loss prescription medications like Wegovy, and over-the-counter medications like Viagra Connect, as well as many more.

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