GP access still a problem for many patients, survey finds


Nearly half of patients want to see their GP surgery’s opening hours extended to include more convenient times, according to a new survey. The research, conducted by health insurance provider Westfield Health, found 49 per cent of respondents would like their surgery’s opening hours to be extended to include more early morning, evening or weekend opening. In addition, almost a third (31.1 per cent) of respondents in the survey of Westfield policyholders felt the location of their workplace, working hours or other commitments made it very hard for them to get a GP appointment at a convenient time.

Westfield’s Executive Director, Paul Shires said: “If an employee is concerned about a health issue, waiting days for an appointment could add unnecessary worry. Additionally, if they are unable to get an appointment at a time that suits their work or home life, they could end up avoiding getting medical advice at all, putting their health and wellbeing at risk if symptoms aren’t diagnosed or treated.”

Westfield Health’s survey also found that 35 per cent of respondents had researched their symptoms on the internet when they’d been unable to get a convenient appointment, while 16.5 per cent did not see or speak to a health professional at all.

Paul added: “It’s critical to both the nation’s health and the productivity of the country’s workforce that patients can speak to a qualified GP as and when they need to in order to maintain good health. Technology has a major role to play in this. If the member of staff could arrange an online appointment in a quiet and private meeting room, the issue can be discussed promptly without the need to leave and take time away from the workplace. Meanwhile the employee gets peace of mind from discussing their issue with a qualified GP.”

The CBI estimates that businesses lose up to 38 million working hours a year, because employees currently have to visit their GP during work time.*

Last year Westfield enhanced its 24/7 GP phone line, ‘DoctorLine™’, to include a webcam consultation facility, which allows employees to undergo a ‘face-to-face’ consultation with a qualified, practising GP from anywhere that has a webcam connection.

The online consultation can take place wherever the policyholder wants it to, as long as they have a connected webcam and an internet connection. This means that employees with this benefit can have a consultation in a meeting room at work or similar – without having to leave the office. Policyholders can speak to a GP for as long as they need and there is no limit on the amount of times policyholders can call and use the service.