A large-scale survey has revealed that many patients are still finding it difficult to get access to their GP surgery, although figures on the whole have improved slightly over the past three years.
In the Healthcare Commission's study of 69,000 people in England between January and April this year, 55% said they had difficulties getting through to their GP practice or health centre on the phone some or all of the time. However, this was down on the 57% saying the same thing in the last survey, in 2005.
The survey also found that 41% of people wanting an appointment were seen on the same working day while 33% waited one or two days. A total of 13% waited longer than two days but could have been seen earlier, and 13% waited longer than two days because there was no earlier appointment available.
The top-performing trust was Torbay Care Trust, where just 11% of patients waited more than two days for an appointment. By contrast, in Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust in London, 57% waited more than two days.
The survey also showed that a quarter (25%) of people had been put off visiting their GP at some point because of inconvenient opening times, up from 21% in 2005.