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Patients holding off visiting GP to ease pressure on doctors

The average waiting time for an appointments is 6.4 days

Patients are holding back on arranging GP appointments because they worry about the pressure on family doctors, a poll suggests.

The survey by AIG Life found only one in four (24%) working adults immediately arrange an appointment as soon as they feel ill, while nearly a third (30%) say they hold out for as long as possible even if they are suffering.

Parents are quicker to act if it’s their children who are ill – more than half (54%) go to the doctor straightaway and just 3% hold off for as long as possible. 

NHS data shows an average of 842,000 people attend surgery appointments each day with around 52% seeing GPs and the rest seeing other practice staff. Average waiting times for appointments are currently 6.4 days in England with only around two out of five (43%) able to make an appointment on the same day.

AIG’s study found just one in three (33%) of adults can always get an appointment at a time to suit them.

The survey of more than 2,000 employees and self-employed workers found widespread support for GPs – around 78% said they believe family doctors are under immense pressure and 80% worry the NHS is unable to cope with the demands put upon it.

AIG Life has launched online health service, Smart Health, which gives new and existing customers unlimited, 24-hour access to online health services at no extra cost. They can use the Smart Health GP app to make and manage their appointments at a time that suits them. 

Debbie Bolton, head of customer operations and chief underwriter at AIG Life, warned that there is a fine line between protecting GPs and leaving conditions untreated in the hope everything will be fine.

“Sometimes early intervention by a GP is the most appropriate and safest thing to do,” she said.

AIG’s research shows nearly two out of three adults (64%) frequently look up their symptoms online before going to the doctor and that more than half (51%) often just want advice or reassurance from their GP.