James carried out a big survey on GP access in Bury
James carried out a big survey on GP access in Bury

A survey carried out by James Frith MP of 749 people in Bury, Tottington and Ramsbottom highlights major challenges in accessing primary care in Bury and the knock-on effects on emergency services.

Read the coverage in the Bury Times

James carried out the survey over the last four months, engaging with hundreds of people on the doorstep and online to gather their views about local primary care services after receiving complaints about difficulties being able to access local GP services.

The main results of the survey reveal:

  • One third of people found it difficult to make an urgent appointment with their GP
  • 50% of people found it difficult to make a non-urgent appointment with their GP
  • More than 20% of people are waiting over one week for an urgent appointment
  • Nearly half of people are waiting over 2 weeks for a non-urgent appointment
  • One quarter of people are not aware that they can make an appointment to see a GP in the evening or at weekends
The Bury Times carried a Special Report on James
The Bury Times carried a Special Report on James' survey

This new local data for Bury comes as national figures show that patients had to wait a month before seeing their doctor in 15 million cases in the 12 months to August 2019. A similar number had to wait 3-4 weeks and many more had to wait at least two weeks, with a total of 55 million GP visits taking longer than a fortnight from booking an appointment.

The results have been published in the same week that the Care Quality Commission released its State of Care 2018/19 report, which highlights a national challenge of patients struggling to access GP services, causing a direct impact on secondary care services, particularly A&E departments, many of which are struggling to cope with increased demand. The CQC also reports an increase in referral to treatment times over the last year, with 4.4 million people at the end of June 2019 waiting to start treatment – an increase of 40% since June 2014.

15% of those who told us they were unable to get a suitable appointment with their GP went to A&E instead, while 10% visited a local pharmacy. In a boost to the case for protecting Bury’s walk-in services, 60% said they ended up in a walk-in centre after failing to secure a GP appointment. Only a handful used the NHS 111 service.

James said:

“These results show that we have real difficulties here in Bury with access to GP services. This isn’t confined to our town, we’re facing a national crisis.

“The Tory Government must take responsibility for a decade of austerity during which we’ve lost 1,600 GPs while we’ve seen cuts to social care and other health services which have increased demand for their services. Carrying on the way the Government is, we could face a shortage of 7,000 GPs in the next five years because of problems with training and retention.

“I’ll be using these real-life experiences shared by hundreds of local people to make the case in Parliament for urgent, long-term investment in NHS primary care services in Bury. And continuing my commitment to protect walk-in services in our town.

“We don’t need the Health Secretary coming to Bury for a cynical political photo opportunity and promising jam tomorrow, we need an immediate funding boost now to address historic underfunding, protect services facing cuts and boost access to GPs, dentists, mental health services and social care.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said:

“The Tories have spent nine years running our NHS into the ground. They starved it of resources and created a staffing crisis. Now millions wait weeks and weeks to see a family doctor. You simply can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”

Labour has committed to increasing GP training places to 5,000 which will mean 27 million extra GP appointments in the system.

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