Research by Pulse Today, an online resource for health professionals, has revealed that the average waiting time to see a GP now exceeds two weeks. Over 900 healthcare professionals responded to the survey with 478 admitting to waiting times of two weeks or more.
We have collated the full results below:
|Average waiting time||Number of responses||%|
|Less than a week||180||19.98%|
|More than 5 weeks||11||1.22%|
It is a worrying trend with many people worried that wait times are set to get worse before they get better. One GP commented ‘Our list size continues to grow because there are so many housing developments' with another saying, ‘We currently have barely any pre-bookable appointments available due to lack of capacity.’
So what do you do if you feel you cannot wait two weeks to see a GP and yet are not in need of emergency care? Most people find themselves frantically calling their surgery at 8am each day, hoping for a cancellation or an invitation to come in and wait for a gap to appear.
How to get seen by a GP straight away
There is a way that you can jump the queues and get seen straight away, but there is a catch. Many private health insurance policies (sometimes referred to as PHI or PMI cover) now include 'Virtual GP access', which is a service that enables you to have a 'Virtual consultation' with a medical professional via your smartphone or tablet. An added benefit is that many health insurance providers offer a 24-hour service, meaning you can be seen out of hours. It does come at a cost however, with many policies offering the service only in their premium package or as an optional extra.
Vitality is one company that offers the service as part of their core cover and is included in all of their plans. Vitality says 'Our Vitality GP app is much more than a fast way to see a private GP. It’s also a really simple entry point to your health plan, at your fingertips. In a few taps, you can set up video GP consultations; get onward consultant referrals, if you need them; arrange physical and mental health sessions and find trusted health information'.
The cost of Vitality's private health cover will vary depending on a number of factors including your age, health and the level of cover that you apply for. What is interesting about Vitality is that you can earn cashback and rewards for leading a healthy lifestyle. We explain more in our article Vitality - Is it the best health and life insurance?
5 tips to get seen by a GP quicker (and help other people to be seen quicker)
- Cancel unwanted appointments - While it may not help you get seen quicker this time, if everyone cancelled their unwanted appointments, waiting times would immediately reduce
- Be nice - It is likely that the person you speak to at the surgery is just as frustrated as you are and so being unpleasant will not help the situation. If you are nice then the person on the other end of the phone may be more inclined to go out of their way to help
- Keep on top of your prescriptions - Receptionists spend many hours chasing after GPs, getting them to sign emergency/last-minute repeat prescriptions, time that could be better spent seeing patients
- See an alternative Doctor - By having a 'favourite' GP, you could be clogging up the system. Settling for a substitute means that gaps can be filled and overall waiting times come down
- Call after 11am - While most people will try to call a surgery first thing, they may actually be better off waiting. Receptionists will be less busy later in the day and it is likely that appointments may have become free due to early morning cancellations