A latest annual report from Healthwatch England has found that people’s most common frustration in relation to GP services is the difficulty of getting an appointment quickly.

The report stated: “The most common frustration we hear about is that people can’t get a GP appointment soon enough. They struggle to get an appointment over the phone and online”.

The independent champion for health and social care service users heard responses from over 400,000 people this year; an increase of 19% on 2016/17. It found that most patients were generally happy with their GP but their biggest irritation was that they couldn’t get an appointment soon enough.

Healthwatch England warned: “Poor access has a knock-on effect. Long waits to be seen can prevent people from being diagnosed, treated and referred to specialist services.”

Healthwatch England highlighted positive feedback for the way GPs treat mental health patients. The report found that 9 out of 10 adults with mental health conditions were supported solely by their GP or primary care, and half of feedback about GPs supporting people with anxiety and depression was positive.

According to the report, common questions asked were what GP services are in their area; how can they register; and how can they change GPs if they are unhappy with the service. A smaller number asked about out-of-hours services, services for foreign nationals and how they could make a complaint about their GP.

The Healthwatch England report also found feedback that there were difficulties with care home residents seeing their GP; some GP practices were preventing people from registering because they did not have a permanent address despite this being against NHS guidelines; and GP registration forms were shared in a format that people with learning disabilities would not understand.

The annual report for 2017/18, What Matters Most, is available here.

Last reviewed 18 December 2018