WATCH: Patients speak to ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw about their difficulties getting GP appointments
A man from Kent says he was 'angry' and 'upset' after being left with little choice but to pay for a private GP consultation to get urgent medication.
Lukas Habsuda was told by his NHS surgery in Ashford that he would have to wait four days for a call back from a doctor when he had tonsillitis last month, despite struggling to eat.
Speaking to ITV News Meridian, Mr Habsuda said: “I was in so much pain, so I decided to go for a private GP and I had antibiotics within 20 minutes. I was lucky and I was a bit angry that I couldn’t get help from the NHS.
“It was awful. To just get a call back in four days’ time when you’re in pain is unbelievable. I really needed help, which I didn’t get from my GP.”
WATCH: Dr Ash Peshen, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, NHS Kent and Medway
Recent official figures show patients are on average waiting longer for GP appointments in the South East, compared to this time last year.
Overall, 1.9 million consultations were carried out in Kent and Sussex in March, a 4% rise compared to 2022, with 43% of patients seen on the same day.
But 633,000 people waited more than a week to see a doctor in March, a rise of 6% compared to the same month last year.
NHS England says its ‘radical plan to improve access to primary care’ will see millions of patients able to get prescription medication directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment.
Dr Ash Peshen, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for NHS Kent and Medway, told ITV News Meridian: “Every practice is working as hard as they possibly can do but I agree that we need to do more, we need to be more effective in terms of the ways we deliver our care.
“That’s what we’re all working together on in terms of how we improve our access models. For example [patients] could see a physio, a mental health nurse, a pharmacist, or a GP. Based on what your need is, we could signpost you to get the right patient to the right clinician every time.”
WATCH: Lukas Habsuda explains why he opted for a private GP appointment to get urgent medication.
Difficulty recruiting new GPs is an issue across the country, with Dr Peshen revealing that Thanet and Swale are the two areas of Kent with the biggest shortage in the workforce.
76-year-old Frederick Hadler, from Maidstone, was due to have prostate surgery earlier this month to treat incontinence. He says it was cancelled when his hospital couldn’t make contact with his GP practice.
Mr Hadler said: “People can’t get through to them. Some people take two or three days to get through to them and it's not safe… It’s all down to the government, and the fact they’ve got no doctors.”
Speaking earlier this month, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “This government is focused on cutting waiting lists – which is one of our five priorities – and getting patients the care they need, when they need it.
“We have delivered on our promise a year early to recruit 26,000 extra primary care professionals which means more clinicians delivering better, more specialised and accessible care to patients.
“Building on the Primary Care Recovery Plan, we are determined to end the 8am scramble, improve technology and reduce bureaucracy.”
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister announced plans to allow pharmacists to offer prescription drugs for several common alignments without a doctor's sign off, to try to relieve pressure on general practice.
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