With a record number of patients using GP surgeries, independent YouGov polls conducted on behalf of The Sun have revealed that a quarter of patients were forced to wait a minimum of seven days to see their doctor, whilst NHS data analysed by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) found 372 million were unable to get an appointment at all.
As a result, endless numbers are turning to accident and emergency services for treatment, with figures peaking at 300,000 visits per week – the highest on record. The knock on effect is an unprecedented strain on hospital staff and resources, with A&E units across the country now missing the four-hour waiting time target all year round.
Worse off still are those who, after being turned away by their GP, do not seek medical treatment at all, in the hope that they will get better. These are the instances which can have catastrophic results, with early signs of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses going undetected until it’s too late.
Arguably, the NHS is facing its greatest challenges since it was established in 1948. With the current model not equipped to cope with the demands of a rapidly growing, ageing and increasingly pill-dependent population, as is the current case, its failings are becoming not only more apparent, but more frequent too.
As cuts are made here, there and everywhere possible, it appears the repercussions have not gone unnoticed by the public, with a third of Brits stating that their local NHS had worsened in the past year.
But, whilst by no means acceptable, maybe a deterioration in patient care is understandable given the circumstances.
Despite handling 90% of patient appointments in the NHS, general practice is allocated just 8.5% of the £110billion budget. This, combined with the fact that there are simply not enough family doctors to go around, means that poor quality of care seems to have become an inevitable by-product of a crippled system.
Instead of pumping money directly into hospitals in an attempt to cut waiting times, perhaps the NHS should address issues on the frontline, with a view to providing a level of primary care which sufficiently meets the evolving needs of the British population. Such a move may be the only way to alleviate the ever-increasing pressure on our emergency services.