3.7 million patients paid to see a private GP in the last two years

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3.7 million patients paid to see a private GP in the last two years


Vast numbers of patients are turning to private GP services as they struggle to access appointments with family doctors.

Up to 1.6million paid to see a GP for the first time in the past two years, amid growing concern over the lack of face-to-face slots with doctors.

A YouGov poll found 7 per cent of Britons had used a private online or in-person GP service in the past two years, suggesting 3.7million adults did so in total.

While 4 per cent had used a private service previously, 3 per cent said they had done so for the first time in those two years.This means potentially 1.6million people have used paid-for GP services for the first time, if the figures from the poll of 1,755 Britons commissioned by The Times are scaled up.

Only 60 per cent of GP appointments are in person, compared to 80 per cent pre-Covid

Campaigners believe many of those going private are desperate patients unable to access the care they need on the NHS.

Around 80 per cent of GP appointments were held face-to-face before the Covid pandemic – but this fell to just 47 per cent in April 2020, and is still only around 60 per cent.

Patients are more dissatisfied than ever with GP services, with just 38 per cent saying they felt happy with family doctors in last year’s British Social Attitudes Survey – the lowest level since polling began in 1983.

Dennis Reed, from Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly people, said of the poll findings: ‘GPs are in crisis at the moment.

‘The reliable NHS, which was always there for us, isn’t there like it used to be.The number of people seeking help from a private GP appears to be astronomical.

‘It’s extremely worrying as many people can’t afford this private option and should not have to pay. It’s more worrying for those who can’t afford to go private and can’t get a face-to-face appointment.’

Almost half of GPs have said they would consider doing private work for an online service – based on a sample of 823 family doctors – according to magazine Pulse.It comes after the number of full-time and fully qualified GPs fell 4.6 per cent from 29,112 in June 2017 to 27,769 in March this year.

Meanwhile, analysis of GP opening hours data from the NHS website reveals that 12 per cent of surgeries closed over lunchtime – and in some cases were open for only half a day every weekday.

The research, by The Times, was based on 2,115 general practices that have updated their reception opening times since 2020.

Under a new contract coming into effect in October, GPs will have to offer appointments until 8pm from Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.Dr Shaima Villait, from private GP practice Chelsea Medics, said the biggest growth had been in video services offering one-off appointments for urgent problems such as tonsillitis.

She said: ‘The patients like… seeing the same GP and someone who knows their family and their history.

‘We are able to offer that cradle-to-grave care.’

Professor Martin Marshall, emasslot chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We share our patients’ frustrations when they face long waits for appointments, and GPs and our teams work incredibly hard to minimise these waits.’


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