Have you even lived if you’ve never been on a waiting list for the doctors or for a medical appointment of some sort? Answer: no.
And if you’ve somehow managed to get through your entire life (so far, anyway) without having to wait a few weeks to see a doctor or a specialist, then you’re either extremely lucky or you’ve been living in denial and need to visit a hospital ASAP.
Because waiting lists are just a part and parcel of dealing with an under-resourced NHS; so much so that one in four Brits are on a waiting list right now for a medical appointment, research has found.
Out of those, three in 10 have made an appointment to see a GP which is yet to happen – while another one in three are waiting to see a specialist after being referred by their doctor. And just over a fifth are waiting to have an operation following their diagnosis.
But while one in 10 are simply looking to get a new prescription, one in five are waiting for a potentially life-changing diagnostic test.
The study also revealed that the average adult of working age has to wait four weeks for a vital diagnosis or consultation – although 15 per cent are waiting seven weeks or longer. As a result, nearly one in 10 respondents rated their satisfaction of waiting times as zero or one out of 10 – zero being ‘totally unsatisfied’.
The research was conducted by UK health and wellbeing provider Benenden Health and Medical, whose director, Dr John Giles, said:
Unfortunately, many patients with undiagnosed serious conditions do not always meet urgent NHS referral criteria and often have to wait too long for a diagnosis. Early diagnosis is important but a lot of people are more than happy to wait for non-urgent treatment once they know their condition is not life-threatening.
Waiting too long to have your health concerns resolved can have a huge impact on daily life, not least the major impact on your employment and wellbeing at work. The NHS is an asset that millions have huge faith in, but it faces ever-increasing pressures from new technologies and treatments along with an ageing population and increasingly lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
With increasing demands and finite resources, the NHS is increasingly focusing on more urgent care and potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer and heart disease, leaving less urgent cases to wait longer. Sometimes the answer is to obtain private health insurance, but this can be costly.
Often people don’t know that there are affordable alternatives to traditional private health insurance that could help them get reassurance and return to full health sooner.
Although a quarter of the 2,000 Brits polled say they feel ‘understanding’ about waiting for an NHS appointment, 47 per cent are left feeling frustrated. And one in five respondents have sought private healthcare as an alternative to waiting for an appointment through the NHS.
Worryingly, three in 10 adults have been on an NHS waiting list only to find their appointment had been cancelled. But although half of these were informed as to why the appointment was no longer going ahead, the rest were left with no explanation.
Researchers from OnePoll.com also found nearly half don’t know what their current GP’s name is, and three in five Brits would be happy to use a 24-hour phone line to access GP services – if one existed.
But while two in five Brits are aware of what a ‘GP e-consultation’ is, only nine per cent of the population have taken part in one. It also emerged that to avoid waiting to speak to or see a health professional, three quarters of those surveyed have attempted to come to their own diagnosis.
More than two thirds have Googled their symptoms to try and find out what the issue is, while one in seven have consulted medical books for possible matches with their condition.
Dr Giles added:
Alternative models to the traditional GP surgery have been growing for several years, with online ‘e-consultations’ the latest development. This won’t suit everyone, but for an increasingly digitally-savvy audience that is used to online interaction, it could be the perfect way to access their GP.
There’s always the option for a GP telephone helpline as well if the idea of an e-consultation isn’t attractive. E-consultations and telephone helplines just a keyboard tap or phone call away could also negate the trend towards self-diagnosis via the internet.
Whilst researching your symptoms online can be valuable, an over-reliance on ‘Dr Google’ can be dangerous if the information you read misleads you with false reassurance or unnecessary concern.
This comes after a separate survey by Benenden Health found that mental health was the most popular health-related search with more than 11.5 million searches over 12 months – a full report can be found here.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).