Nigel Edwards responds to NatCen survey on public attitudes to emergency care survey

According to new polling people living in deprived areas feel less sure of getting a GP appointment and the evidence shows they’re right to.

Press release

Published: 14/08/2019

Responding to NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey on public attitudes to emergency care1, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:

“There’s no doubt that access to general practice has been deteriorating with the first sustained fall in the number of GPs per person for 50 years.2 Boris Johnson has made GP waits a top priority but we need to know in detail, given the dire GP workforce shortages, how this is realistically going to be turned around. It isn’t surprising to me that people living in deprived areas feel less sure of getting a GP appointment – they’re right. Our own analysis recently found that people living in worse off areas are less likely to get an appointment or see the GP they want.3

“It’s easy to see why the public are worried about the mounting pressure on the NHS, given that last month we saw the highest number of people on record coming to A&E.4 The NHS has actually built lots of minor emergency departments specifically for less urgent complaints, so it is entirely logical that more people are showing up. However, they seem to be used on top of major A&E departments and so haven’t taken the pressure off in the way that was hoped. But we also know that hospital beds are often at capacity, suggesting that the number of really ill people has significantly increased over a number of years.”

Notes to editors

  1. These figures are taken from the first ever large-scale research into attitudes towards emergency care from the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey - carried out by the National Centre for Social Research [NatCen] and funded by the National Institute for Health Research [NIHR].
  2. Our analysis of historic GP numbers can be found here: Is the number of GPs falling across the UK?
  3. In December we analysed whether more deprived areas of England were ‘left behind’ by the NHS
  4. The latest analysis of NHS performance figures can be found here.