An elderly patient made an appointment with his cat’s vet after being unable to get a GP appointment.
The unnamed man, who is thought to be in his 70s, asked theÂ veterinarian to look at a worrying rash on his chest after growing increasingly frustrated with the waiting time to see his doctor.
The Brighton-based vet, who chose to remain anonymous, told MailOnline he was unable to treat the pensioner but prescribed flea treatment for his cat in case such insects were causing the man’s rash.
This comes after the GP Patient Survey 2018 released earlier this week found one in four people are forced to wait a week or more to see a family doctor, with such waiting times having doubled over the past six years.Â
Just one third of people can get an appointment at their local GP surgery on the same day they call-up, the survey found.Â
Last year, Theresa May ordered GPs to extend their opening hours and offer appointments 8am-to-8pm, seven days a week, in a bid to improve access. Yet, the latest figures suggest securing an appointment is harder than ever.
A patient made an appointment with his cat’s vet after being unable to see his GP (stock)
Asked vet about his rashÂ
The unnamed man visited the vet with his healthy cat, which he immediately put down when he entered the consultation room, saying the feline was fine.
He then proceeded to undo his shirt to show the physician a rash that was causing him concern.Â
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, told MailOnline: ‘Waiting times for GP appointments are too long, but GPs and our teams are working to absolute capacity â€“ there simply aren’t enough GPs to offer enough consultations to meet demand.
‘We understand that this is frustrating for patients, as it is for GPs, and this can lead some people to take drastic measures.Â
‘But vets are highly trained to care for animals, not people. They are not allowed to prescribe medication to humans and are also private practitioners, and so incur a charge.
‘If a patient does have a minor condition, such as a skin rash, we would encourage them to visit a pharmacist in the first instance who will be able to advise whether a doctor’s appointment is needed or whether any over-the-counter medicines are available to allow them to self-care.
She added: ‘Ultimately, general practice needs more funding, more GPs and more members of the practice team so that we can offer more appointments to patients who need them.Â
‘It is vital that general practice is recognised as the upcoming long-term plan for the NHS is developed, and the RCGP is calling for general practice to receive an extra Â£2.5bn a year, on top of what has already been promised in NHS England’s GP Forward View, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve.’
Official figures show that 41 per cent â€“ around 10,000 doctors â€“ are 50 or over and are expected to quit within the next five to ten years.Â
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt promised golden hellos of Â£20,000 for trainees who take up unpopular posts in October.
Fewer young doctors are choosing to specialise as GPs, and are opting for more â€˜machoâ€™ career paths as surgeons or specialists.Â Â
It came as numbers of GPs are known to be dwindling in recent years, placing even more pressure on an over-stretched health service.
Many are retiring in their 50s, moving abroad or leaving to work in the private sector, as practices have threatened to close their waiting lists until action is taken.
This continued crisis has left many patients at risk, with staff unable to cope with the rising demand and slashed funding.
The shortage of doctors comes despite the NHS adopting a plan in April to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2021.
Mr Hunt’s pledge of Â£2.4 billion was said to be the answer to the staffing shortage, helping plug the growing number of vacancies.
This money was devised to lure GPs to move to the worst-hit areas of England, and to stop them from seeking another career.Â
Thousands of new ‘doctors on the cheap’ are also being trained to prop up the cash-strapped NHS, it emerged in June.
An army of ‘physician associates’ will work in GP surgeries and hospitals to diagnose patients, recommend treatments and perform minor procedures.Â
Scores of practices also believe they are working well beyond maximum capacity – feeling pressured to take on a higher workload and risk mistakes.Â
This comes after a survey released yesterday found one in four people are forced to wait a week or more to see a family doctor, with waiting times doubling over the past six years (stock)
Nearly 30% of people give up on trying to see their GPÂ
The GP Patient Survey 2018, which interviewed 760,000 people, found that the proportion of patients waiting more than a week to see a GP has risen from 12.8 per cent in 2012 to 23.8 per cent this year.
The number of patients finding it ‘not very easy’ or ‘not at all easy’ to get through to their GP surgery by phone has increased from 19 per cent to almost 30 per cent between 2012 and 2018.
Worryingly, the number of patients who have given up altogether and not seen or spoken to anyone after struggling to get an appointment has nearly doubled from 15 to 28 per cent in just a year.
GP leaders estimate that around a million people see a doctor every day; meaning hundreds of thousands of patients are struggling to see a medic when sick.
The findings of the survey will likely fuel concern about GP crisis, with such services being under pressure due to immigration, an ageing population, and a crisis in recruitment and retention.
On the back of the findings, John Kell, head of policy at the Patients Association, said: ‘It can be unbelievably stressful to face a long wait or period of uncertainty even before getting to see a doctor, quite apart from prolonging the length of time someone has to live with the medical issue that is troubling them.
‘Figures of this sort are no longer at all surprising, but they’re not acceptable.Â
‘These problems are the result of policy decisions that could and should have been made differently.’Â Â