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One in five are unable to get to see a GP in Bradford
More than one in five patients in parts of Bradford are unable to get a GP appointment when they need one, doctors are warning.
Hundreds of people in central areas of the city complained they could not book a slot, in official surveys carried out by the Department of Health.
In total, patients were being turned away on thousands of occasions each year, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warned.
And it blamed the “growing crisis” on funding cuts to general practice at a time when demand for services is rising sharply.
The Bradford City clinical commissioning group (CCG) declined to comment on the survey’s results and the RCGP’s talk of a crisis.
But a spokesman for NHS England in West Yorkshire said 78 per cent of practices within the Bradford City boundaries offered extended opening hours, including on Saturdays.
He added: “We recognise that there is some variation in accessing GP services in Bradford.
“We are working with GP practices and the clinical commissioning group (CCG) to improve patient access and satisfaction rates in the local area.”
The survey tested the opinions of thousands of patients in each CCG area, over six months last year.
It found a staggering 22 per cent in Bradford City – a total of 370 patients of 1,632 who responded – were unable to “see or speak to someone” at their local surgery.
That was more than double the national average of ten per cent and easily the highest proportion in the district.
The next highest figure was in Bradford Districts (14 per cent), followed by Calderdale and North Kirklees (both 12 per cent), Leeds West (ten per cent) and Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven (nine per cent). The figures exclude patients who said they could get an appointment after being asked to “call back closer to, or on the day, I wanted”.
Dr Maureen Baker, of the RCGP, said: “The unprecedented decline in funding for healthcare in the community has brought general practice to its knees.
“GPs and practice nurses can’t keep doing more for less. Resources are increasingly being diverted into hospitals.”
The RCGP said the average number of annual consultations carried out by each GP in England has increased by 1,450 since 2008, from 9,264 to 10,714.
Councillor Mike Gibbons, who is chairman of Bradford Council’s health and social care overview and scrutiny committee, said: “Everyone should have reasonable access to a GP in 2014.
“The earlier that an intervention can take place often means a better outcome for the patient.
“Efforts are being made to improve matters and the survey does state that GPs are seeing their patients on 40 million more occasions than just five years ago. I urge people to demonstrate clearly when telephoning their GP the nature of their problem, and to stress the importance of their case.”
George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, was dismayed at the figures and vowed to tackle the problem.
He said: “It is a pretty shocking statistic and I will take it up with the relevant authority. It is something that I do hear colloquially at my surgery and on the street. It doesn’t sound right.”
David Ward, MP for Bradford East, said: “It is worrying because we are seeing an explosion nationally and locally in the use of accident and emergency, and it is putting it under immense pressure, and you begin to wonder if there is a connection between the two.
“Are people going to accident and emergency because it is a relatively speedy way of getting treatment, although more expensive?”
Andy Burnham, Labour’s health spokesman, also linked the lack of appointments to the rising numbers heading to choked A&E departments.
He said: “Patients call the surgery early in the morning only to be told nothing is available for days. It is unacceptable.”