Newly released NHS data has laid bare the huge number of people facing lengthy waits for GP appointments. 

Almost 13,000 people had to wait longer than a fortnight for an appointment in Stevenage this October, with 4,400 of them having to wait longer than 28 days. 

The waiting time refers to the number of days between the appointment being booked and the date of the appointment. 

More than 2,000 people in Letchworth had to wait longer than 28 days for an appointment, while 1,444 people faced the same wait in Hatfield. 

In Welwyn Garden City, 834 people had to wait longer than 28 days, and a further 4,390 had to wait more than two weeks. 

Hitchin was the area with the fewest lengthy waits, with 505 waiting longer than 28 days and a further 1,393 waiting longer than two weeks. 

Waits for a GP appointment in Herts, October 2022

Across England as a whole, almost two million people had to wait more than 28 days in October, with another 4.3 million waiting longer than two weeks. 

The number of GPs has been falling in recent years. There are now 4,600 fewer GPs than in 2013. 

Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB, said: “The recent GP data release tells us three important things.

“Firstly, in response to the growing demand for GP services, our practices are offering a huge amount of appointments, and our own data shows that there are more appointments year on year. 

"In September this year, more than 677,000 appointments took place in our practices – with 70 per cent of those ‘face to face’. That’s 146,000 more appointments than in September last year.

"The mix of ‘on the day’ and bookable appointments helps people who have urgent needs, as well as those who want to see a particular clinician, or people who want to plan ahead  – booking time off work, or arranging childcare, for example.

“Secondly, we’re now seeing the impact of improved secure technology, which means that it’s not always necessary to bring people into practices to advise them.

"Many patients welcome the convenience of phone, video or online consultations. Face-to-face appointments are always available when it’s clinically necessary, or when that’s right for patients’ needs.

"We are working with many practices to put in place new telephone systems to help to meet demand at busy periods.

"This technology isn’t just used in primary care but across the healthcare system with outpatient appointments at hospitals at times delivered over the phone or on video.

“Finally, an increasing number of people are seeing the right person, first time.

"Practice workforces have expanded, so that, for example, sports injuries and muscle strains are dealt with by a physiotherapist, minor injuries can be treated by a paramedic, and regular checks for people with diabetes or breathing issues are carried out by specialist nurses.

"Patients are also advised when a pharmacist in the local community might be best suited to their needs for advice on medicines or to assess a minor illness.

"Unfortunately, the data recently released doesn’t reflect the number of same day appointments which are carried out by these wider members of the practice team.

"It also doesn’t reflect those that are delivered outside of the standard hours as part of the enhanced access with evening and weekend appointments.

“GP services aren’t perfect – with a growing, ageing population and a national shortage of clinicians, meeting demand is always going to be difficult - but we are committed to supporting our patients and working with them to improve services."