The average wait for a routine doctor’s appointment has passed the two-week mark for the first time, according to a survey of GPs.
An annual poll of waiting times by leading GP publication Pulse has found that patients wait, on average, almost 15 days for an appointment. More than one fifth (22%) of GPs said that the wait for a routine appointment was more than three weeks, while at six percent of practices, patients had to wait longer than four weeks to be seen.
The 14.8-day waiting time surpasses last year’s 13.9 days and is the first time the average has risen to more than a fortnight. In 2016 and 2017, in comparison, the average wait remained the same at 12.8 days. The figure comes from a poll of more than 900 GPs across the UK and follows analysis by the BMA earlier this year showing that GP waiting times have increased by 15% in a year.
GPs say the increase in waiting times is fuelled partly by the number of new housing developments being built and underfunding by the government, as well as a rise in GPs leaving the profession. The statistics also explain the popularity of telemedicine and ‘virtual’ GP appointments, particularly with younger patients.
Currently, of the health insurance products on our panel, around two fifths - 19 out of 49 - offer virtual GP benefits to members*. Head of partnerships and marketing Rod Jones said: “We are encouraged to see so many health insurers now offering virtual GP services, which enable patients to speak to the right professional in a more timely manner.
“We understand how frustrating it is when you can’t get a same-day - or even same-week - appointment, but having the right health insurance for your own circumstances is one step towards getting advice and treatment at the time it’s most needed.
“These new GP waiting time figures show that telemedicine could be of key benefit to patients who want to access information and prescriptions without delay. The way we live and work is changing, and virtual appointments are an obvious way to meet the needs of people with less complex illnesses and routine medical needs.
“Young people, in particular, are clued up as to the benefits of phone and video consultations, meaning they need to take less time off work and can fit in appointments around family life. We now look forward to even more health insurers embracing the digital age, which in turn enables customers to access professional health advice when they need it.”
Our partner The Exeter recently launched an exciting new digital health service app called Healthwise. Developed in partnership with medical network Square Health, the app gives customers instant access to digital health services and e-consultancy, with benefits including phone consultations with UK-based doctors, a prescription service, the ability to ask for a second opinion, mental health support and even a virtual physio advice consultation.
Earlier this year, a survey revealed that almost half of employees aged 18-24 would prefer a digital GP appointment than see a doctor in person. Post-millennials are also three times more likely than the over-55s to have cancelled a scheduled GP appointment in the past 12 months and six times more likely not to have shown up at all.
To find the right policy offering digital GP services, use our online health insurance comparison tool or call our expert team on 0800 862 0373.
* Data sourced on August 14 2019.