Nearly a third of the full-time workers in the UK are dissatisfied with the appointment times on offer at their GP surgeries, exclusive analysis of NHS figures[i] by Equipsme reveals.
Thirty per cent of people who work full time are dissatisfied with the times they are offered when calling for a GP appointment, versus 22% for those not in employment.
Those in full time employment are also least likely to see their preferred GP when they want to, with 44% saying this is always or regularly the case versus 48% of the wider population.
Just 70% of those who work 30 hours or more a week are satisfied with appointment times, compared to 74% of the population as a whole.
Some 7% of workers decided not to make an appointment after calling their GP surgery, with half of those who walked away stating that there weren’t any appointments available for the time or day they wanted.
“With the latest figures showing that UK businesses are in a deepening productivity crisis, these figures make for sobering reading,” says Matthew Reed, co-founder and managing director at Equipsme, the health insurance provider for small to medium sized businesses.
“British productivity fell 0.1%[ii] in the final three months of 2018, the second consecutive quarter of decline. A workforce’s productivity is inextricably linked to its physical and mental health, so it’s imperative that those in employment can see doctors when they need to.”
UK productivity was lower in the past decade than at any point in the 20th Century, according to the ONS. It has been falling or growing at a slower rate than other developed nations since 2008. The UK now lags behind most other EU states in terms of the amount produced per manhour.
Reed adds: “It’s no coincidence that, as productivity falls, we’re all having to wait longer to see a GP. Only one in three[iii] get an appointment on the same day as calling the doctor; 26% have to wait more than a week. Only 4% want to wait that long.
“Having to wait so long to see a doctor when you’re ill or have worrying symptoms, at best, causes unnecessary worry or delays recovery. At worst, it puts lives at risk. It takes a heavy toll on the working lives of those forced to wait to see a doctor and their employers.”
UK business should act by investing in staff health and wellbeing programmes that give their staff 24-hour access to a doctor whenever they need one, says Reed. Indeed, it could help ease some of the pressures facing the NHS, he adds.
“The NHS has been recognised as the best in the developed world twice in a row[iv] but its weakness is primary care, GPs on the frontline. If more businesses give their staff access to GPs through private health plans, it will help ease some of the pressure the NHS is facing. What’s more, it will also help drive their productivity,” Reed concludes.
[i] NHS GP Patient Survey, July 2019
[ii] ONS Q4 2018
[iii] NHS GP Patient Survey, July 2019
[iv] Commonwealth Fund, July 2017, 2014