Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Southwark News column: GP access - 5/6/14

One of the most important things for most people is our NHS. From cradle to grave, we need to know our health services are there when we need them. And most people’s regular contact is with their GP. People want to be able to get an appointment quickly, see the same doctor each time and feel that their doctor has enough time for them.
People in Southwark tell me that they are finding it harder to see their GP. A teacher from Peckham complained she had to wait over 3 weeks for an appointment that she could fit in with her work. But her symptoms worsened and she tried to get an appointment sooner. She rang first thing in the morning but all appointments for that day had already been booked by 8.10am. She was told by the receptionist to call again the next day and ‘hope to be one of the lucky ones’.

A woman from Peckham Rye complained she had to wait almost a month for an appointment. She was told when she called that she could call again the next day to see if an appointment was available but this was inconvenient for her because she starts work early in the morning. In the past, she has even been late to work because she couldn’t get through on the phone when trying to make a same day appointment. 
People need to be able to see their GP promptly to avoid worry, get an early diagnosis and treatment, and it should not be a struggle to get an appointment when you need it. People should not have to take time off work to see their GP and lose pay or suffer anxiety, or be forced to go to A&E when it isn’t an accident or an emergency.
A survey at my advice surgery showed three quarters said they had to wait over 48 hours to get a GP appointment and over half were not able to get an appointment on the same day. Most worryingly, over half of the constituents surveyed said they had had to go to A&E because they couldn’t see their GP in time.
When Labour was in Government, 80% of patients got a GP appointment in 48 hours. Only 20% had to wait longer. Now 60% have to wait more than 48 hours to see their GP.
As your local MP, I’ve worked hard over the years with other South London MP’s to improve our NHS. My worry is that with this Tory/Lib Dem Government we are slipping back.
That is why the next Labour government will invest in GP surgeries and give people the right to an appointment within 48 hours, and on the same day for those who need it.

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