In an extensive review of people’s access to GP services, Healthwatch England have analysed a range of sources, drawing on almost 200,000 people’s experiences shared between April 2019 and December 2020.
What people told Healthwatch:
- Communication: Communicating information about changes to services because of COVID-19 has not been a top priority for all GP practices. As a result, people were confused about how to get in touch with their GP, whether they could make an appointment and how, and what to expect if they attended the surgery in person.
- Booking an appointment: Before the pandemic, we repeatedly heard about the problems people faced when booking appointments, particularly for working people and parents of school-aged children. While we heard very little about problems people had when contacting their GP practice in the initial lockdown, by autumn 2020, people started telling us about long waits when phoning services. People also told us about problems booking appointments because of triage systems and not being sure when their GP or other healthcare professional will call back, leaving people feeling anxious.
- Appointments not meeting people’s needs: Remote GP appointments haven’t met everyone’s needs. While telephone appointments are convenient for some, others are worried that their health issues will not be accurately diagnosed. These problems were exacerbated for disabled people, people with long-term health conditions, people without access to the internet and for anyone whose first language is not English.
- Access to regular treatment and medication: People also struggled to get appointments for regular health check-ups, treatments and medication reviews. As a result, they could not get the medication and treatment they need to manage their co