Some 23 per cent of those surveyed said they could not get an appointment, while three in 10 (33 per cent) said they had given up on booking one altogether, according to a Savanta poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.
Many said they had resorted to “DIY” medical care or gone to A&E instead. One in seven (14 per cent) said they had been forced to treat themselves or ask someone else untrained to do so, with the same proportion seeking emergency care.
One in five people said they had bought medication online or at a pharmacy without advice from a GP, and one in three had delayed seeing a doctor despite being in pain, as pressure on the NHS mounts.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey described the figures as “utterly depressing” and said they should serve as an “urgent wake-up call for ministers asleep on the job”.
The party has called for a new legal right to see a GP within seven days in an early version of its manifesto, which it says will be fully costed at a later date.
Its focus is on local health services and the environment, which the Lib Dems believe are crucial to woo traditional Tory voters in the south of England, as the party gears up for the 2024 general election.
Sir Ed said the GP poll findings were “scandalous”, adding: “People pay their fair share in tax and expect basic local health services ... it is utterly depressing to see Brits turning to DIY medical treatment.”
He continued: “The record of this Conservative government on the NHS is shameful. Face-to-face GP appointments have become almost extinct in some areas of the country.”
The Liberal Democrat leader added: “Patients are left suffering in pain after years of neglect under the Conservative government, who have repeatedly broken their promise to recruit more GPs.”
It comes as new data suggests that thousands of parents whose children are suffering with poor mental health are turning to a charity for help. Figures from Young Minds show that just over 13,000 people contacted the charity’s parent helpline from 1 January to 8 December in 2023, while a further 2,800 parents and carers needed urgent crisis support.
The main issues parents needed help to deal with during the year included anxiety, anger, depression and low mood in their children, along with behaviour issues and problems relating to autism.
The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment, as has the Conservative Party.
The Savanta poll interviewed 2,226 UK adults in December about their experience with GP services over the previous 12 months, with data then extrapolated to Britain as a whole.
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