Labour has accused the government of treating GP services with astonishing neglect, as the party released an analysis that showed millions of patients have worse access to their family doctor than five years ago.
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said a study of the GP patient surveys showed access to surgeries had got worse every year since 2012, when measuring how people feel about their local practices.
He said the analysis demonstrated the effects of sustained underfunding of primary care services under the Conservatives, despite the government’s claims to be moving toward better round-the-clock access to GPs.
“This research exemplifies just how hard it is becoming to see a GP in Tory Britain, with patients’ overall experience of their GP services getting drastically worse,” Ashworth said.
“Overworked and underfunded GPs are struggling to cope with rising needs from patients. Across the country GPs and practice staff are working to keep the service running in the face of astonishing neglect from Theresa May and her ministers.”
The survey for this year showed only 68% of people found it easy to get through to their surgery by phone compared with 79% in 2012. It also showed a rise in the number of people who were unable to get appointments at all, up from 8.9% to 11.3% of those surveyed.
Other findings included a 7% increase in patients waiting a week or more until they saw their GP or nurse and a fall of 10% in patients regularly able to see or speak to their preferred doctor. There were also small rises in people finding their experiences of making an appointment fairly poor or very poor, and patients saying they have to wait far too long for an appointment.
“The British public deserves better. Labour would give GPs the resources and support they need to provide better and more accessible services for patients,” Ashworth said.