Many people can sympathise with having to wait for a GP appointment. Current figures show that around 20% of patients have to wait two weeks to see their GP, leaving people frustrated with their healthcare services. The figures highlight the growing shortage of GPs and nurses in the NHS. There are concerns that this could lead to serious problems over the coming months with winter now here. Could the alternatives to GP appointment waiting times help ease patient concerns?
One in five wait two weeks for an appointment
The NHS has revealed that one in five patients waits 15 days for a GP appointment. It’s the first time that these types of figures have been published by the NHS, leading to concerns around staff shortages and how they affect patient care. Despite the best efforts of GPs, who are working hard to deliver a higher number of consultations than before, GP appointment waiting times are continuing to rise.
Are there alternatives to avoiding GP appointment waiting times?
Waiting for an appointment with your GP can be a frustrating time, but there are solutions available. If you tend to book an appointment with your GP at the first sign of a cold or other common illness, then you could save yourself some time and get better sooner by practicing self-care at home. Self-care can be used to treat a number of conditions from colds and other viruses to allergies or mild digestion problems. Unless your symptoms are severe or aren’t improving with time, then treating yourself at home could be a good alternative to waiting for a GP appointment.
Meanwhile, visiting your pharmacist can also provide a faster treatment option. If you’re suffering from a cold, allergies, skin conditions, minor injuries or bites, your local pharmacist could help you get the treatment you need. More and more pharmacists are also offering additional health services such as flu jabs, travel vaccinations and more to provide alternatives to GP appointments.
Making the most of your out of hours services
To help with GP appointment waiting times, there are also out of hours services available to patients. Many GPs across the UK offer extended opening hours, while out of hours services can also provide medical assistance during evenings and weekends.
With the NHS making more and more provisions to offer healthcare services that are flexible and convenient for patients’ working lives, out of hours can be a good way to get an appointment when you need one. Accessing out of hours is easier than you might expect, and it’s important to know how to access yours in case you need them. Some points to note include:
- Dial 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk in the first instance if you need help for a non-emergency medical situation
- Remember to dial 999 in cases of emergency that require urgent treatment
- Your local out of hours care centre will be open during the evening Monday-Thursday from 6.30pm – 8.00am, and then throughout the weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning, as well as bank holiday weekends.
- When contacting 111, you’ll be advised on the best course of action, which may involve attending your nearest out of hours practice for an appointment.
- Minor injuries can also be treated at walk-in centres or a minor injury unit.
Using out of hours means you can get treatment without having to wait for a GP appointment, helping you to get better sooner. Think twice before you book an appointment to help combat GP appointment waiting times and free up GP surgeries for those in need of urgent medical treatment. With winter now well and truly here, you can help do your local surgery a big favour by becoming more familiar with your out of hours services.