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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Scots 'wait longer' to see GPs
GP
The survey suggests Scots are waiting longer to see GPs
People in Scotland are less likely to be seen by their doctor within 48 hours than those living south of the border, according to a consumer survey.

Research carried out by consumer group Which? found that 28% of Scottish respondents were seen the same or next day by their doctor - compared with 52% in England and Wales.

Opposition parties seized on the figures and accused Scottish Executive ministers of failing to provide an adequate number of GPs.

But the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland said the survey sample was too small to create an accurate picture.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "Extremely concerning"

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the issue of patients who could not see a GP within 48 hours was "a matter of concern".

The Westminster Government has set a target of 2004 for all patients in England and Wales to see a doctor within two working days of calling the surgery.

The survey of 1,232 adults over 15 also found that only 40% of patients in Scotland felt their GPs answered their questions well, compared with 59% in England and Wales.

'Sick of strategies'

Helen Parker, editor of Which? magazine, said the survey showed that the length of wait for GP appointments could be a lottery depending on where patients lived.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "It is extremely concerning that patients in Scotland are having to wait longer to see their GPs than patients in England and Wales.

"We have too few GPs in Scotland doing too much and the health minister (Malcolm Chisholm) must get his act together to ensure that patients are seen as soon as possible."

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said the statistics were disappointing.

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm received NHS action plans

She said the executive had spent 20% more on health per head of population than England and Wales but this funding had not resulted in a better service.

"I think people are getting heartily sick of strategies, consultations and glossy brochures but when it comes to the reality the system is simply not working," she said.

Mr Chisholm did say some patients in Scotland were having to wait too long for treatment.

But he told BBC Radio Scotland that he had received action plans from every NHS health board on how they intended to tackle the problem.

He said: "People who require to see their GP urgently do so quickly, but obviously we know that others wait too long and that is a matter of public concern. That is why we are determined to take action.

Low morale

"Comparisons with England are very interesting because I am eager to learn lessons form England, but equally people admit some things are done better in Scotland."

Dr Mary Church, of the BMA GPs Committee for Scotland, said she was "very disappointed" at the impact the survey has had.

She said the sample was "quite small" which affected less than 200 patients north of the border.

"At the moment, any patient satisfaction surveys are based on at least 50 consultations in a practice. That is to get any information that is useful.

"So, if you look at Scotland, 120 is really not very much."

There was, she added, a shortage of GPs and morale within the profession was very low.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC's Gillian Marles reports
"The BMA said the sample was too small for an accurate picture"
Dr Mary Church, BMA GPs' Committee
"It's disappointing to see the headlines which have come out of this survey"
See also:

02 Sep 02 | Scotland
29 Aug 02 | Scotland
25 Jun 02 | Scotland
30 May 02 | Scotland
15 May 02 | Scotland
10 Apr 02 | Health
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