Millions of patients wait longer than fourteen days every month to see their GP in England

More than five million patients a month in England are waiting longer than a fortnight for a GP appointment, after ministers promised everyone could get one within a fortnight.

In September 2022, the government said patients would be able to see a GP within two weeks of booking a consultation. Thérèse Coffey, then health minister, promised to prioritize the issue with a “laser-like focus”.

But in 2023, almost 61 million appointments took place more than two weeks after they were requested, according to new figures from a House of Commons library analysis of NHS data.

Between January and December last year, 60,905,102 patients waited more than fourteen days for an appointment with the GP. This figure represents an increase of 22% on the 2022 figure of 49,862,465, more than three times the increase in total appointments (6%).

The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the analysis, said the figures were “unacceptable” and represented damning evidence that the government had “brought the NHS to its knees”.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said: “Patients are being hit hardest by this failure, with millions of people having to wait weeks in pain just to get a GP appointment. It is an unacceptable situation, which is only getting worse after years of conservative chaos and neglect.

“This Conservative government has decimated local healthcare and brought the NHS to its knees.”

In an election promise to voters on Friday, the Lib Dems will offer patients a new right to see a GP within a week, or within 24 hours if urgently needed. They will say this can be achieved by increasing the number of GPs by 8,000, which equates to 65 million extra appointments per year.

“The Liberal Democrats would give people the legal right to see a GP within a week or 24 hours if they urgently need it, so people never have to struggle to get an appointment again,” Davey said. “This is at the heart of our offer to voters in this election and our plan to solve the health and care crisis.”

The analysis showed that in 2023, almost 18 million GP appointments would involve a waiting period of a month or more. This represents an increase of 38% compared to the number of waiting times of 28 days or longer in 2022.

The report analyzed the length of time between booking GP appointments and when they took place. Waiting times of more than two weeks may be some where that is appropriate, the House of Commons library suggested. They can reflect patient preference, but also the forced wait.

On Thursday in the House of Commons, Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, accused Rishi Sunak of ‘giving up’ on the NHS.

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“After fourteen years of Conservative incompetence, neglect and vandalism, the National Health Service has never been in worse shape,” he said.

“(Sunak) called these elections with no plan to reduce waiting lists, no plan to end strikes and no plan to reform the service. The Conservatives have brought the NHS to breaking point. If they are given another five years, they will get the job done.”

In response, Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, highlighted the performance of the NHS in Labour-run Wales. “(Streeting) talks about the record of the Conservative party,” she said. “We are very proud of it.

“I am particularly proud of the fact that we have record funding for mental and physical health under the government. But I wonder if (Streeting) is that proud of the Wales record?