HEALTH: One in six resort to “DIY Doctor” after failing to secure face-to-face GP appointment

By Lucy Ashton

Liberal Democrats have today revealed polling data showing that people are turning to self-prescribing medication.

And that they are carrying out medical treatment on themselves.

This is happening as going to A&E and GP appointments becomes more difficult to obtain.

There call for a new wave of NHS doctors to be recruited is becoming increasingly louder.

The new poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats found that among people who failed to get a face-to-face GP appointment in the past year across the UK, a staggering one in six resorted to being a “DIY Doctor”, admitting to carrying out medical treatment on themselves or asking somebody else who is not a medical professional to do so.  

Amongst those who said they have tried but couldn’t get a face-to-face GP appointment in their local area in the last 12 months, one in four (24%) self-prescribed medication online or at a pharmacy without GP advice, one in five (19%) went to A&E, whilst three in ten (31%) gave up all together on securing an appointment.

One in four (24%) have tried and failed to get a face-face GP appointment in their local area over the past twelve months.

Andrew Buist, chairman of BMA Scotland’s Scottish GP committee warned recently warned that Scotland was “sleepwalking into the death of general practice”.

A third of GP practices reported vacancies during 2021/22.

He has also warned that Scotland is now approximately 1,000 WTE (whole time equivalent) GPs short and that “this means there is less GP capacity available to care for the people of Scotland than at any point since 2009”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, right,  said: Face-to-face GP appointments have become almost extinct in some areas of the country.

“We now have the devastating situation where people are left treating themselves or even self-prescribing medication because they can’t see their local GP.  

“The people of Scotland are justifiably proud of our NHS, but years of SNP mismanagement and neglect of local health services has left millions unable to see their GP.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would increase the number of training places for GPs, introduce an urgent burn-out prevention strategy and launch a staff assembly that values their expertise.

“We would also embed more nurses, mental health professionals, dieticians and physiotherapists with GPs so that people can get a wider range of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care within their community.

“This would reduce pressure on GPs and on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.”   

The methodology for these alarming stats was gathered by Savanta ComRes who interviewed 2,061 UK adults aged 18+ online between 9th and 11th December 2022. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK by age, sex, region and social grade.

Full results here including Scotland breakdown.

Q1. In the last 12 months, have you tried getting a face-to-face NHS GP appointment in your local area? Base: All respondents (n=2,061) 

Yes, and I got one 43%
Yes, but I couldn’t get one 29%
No, I haven’t tried 27%
Don’t know 1%
NET: Yes 72%

Q2. Which of the following, if any, have you done as a result of not being able to get a face-to-face NHS GP appointment in your local area? Base: All respondents who have tried to get a face-to-face NHS GP appointment in their local area in the last 12 months but couldn’t get one (n= 612)

Delayed seeing a GP despite suffering with pain 32%
Stopped attempting to get an NHS GP appointment altogether 31%
Purchased medication online or at a pharmacy without advice from a GP 24%
Went to A&E 19%
Carried out medical treatment on yourself or asked somebody else who is not a medical professions to do so 16%
Paid for a private appointment 11%
Travelled a long distance to find an NHS GP surgery with appointments 10%
Other (please specify) 7%
Don’t know 1%
None of the above 6%

Pictures: Health centres across West Dunbartonshire.

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