Health Insurance

Sick Britons unable to reach GPs and without health insurance turn to dangerous DIY treatment

GP surgeries are struggling to meet demand leading some patients to DIY medical procedures.

Unwell people are becoming so frustrated trying to get an appointment with a GP they are resorting to dangerous DIY treatment, new research shows.

Over the last 12 months more than one in four adults (29 percent) has tried and failed to get an in-person consultation with their local GP, a Savanta ComRes survey found.

Some of those people (32 percent) delayed seeing a GP despite being in pain while 31 percent simply gave up trying.

But 16% of those who couldn't get an appointment gave themselves treatment, or asked someone else who was not medically qualified to do so.

Another 24 percent bought medication online or at a pharmacy without a doctor's advice, and 19 percent went to A&E.

Another 11 percent paid for a private consultation, according to the poll of 2,061 UK adults which was carried out between December 9 and 11.

The results show a growing trend of people in the UK turning to private healthcare - even without health insurance.

Up to 3.7 million people used a private GP in the last two years, a YouGov poll for The Times suggested in May 2022, with 1.6 million of those using a private doctor for the first time.

It found seven percent of the 1,755 people polled used a paid-for online or in-person GP service. Of those four percent had used a service previously, while three percent used it for the first time.

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At the time, Dennis Reed, of elderly campaign group Silver Voices, said: "GPs are in crisis at the moment.

"The reliable NHS, which was always there for us, isn’t there like it used to be. The number of people seeking help from a private GP appears to be astronomical."

More than seven million people were on the NHS waiting list in October 2022, the British Medical Association (BMA) says. It takes 13.9 weeks to get treatment, on average - much higher than before Covid.

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, which commissioned the survey, said the number of people giving DIY healthcare was "a national scandal".

He said: "Face-to-face GP appointments have become almost extinct in some areas of the country."

A Department of Health spokesperson said there were almost 2,300 more full-time doctors working as GPs since September 2019 and GPs have carried out 80,000 more appointments every working day in 2022 compared to the previous year.

But Dr Margaret Ikpoh, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said difficulties securing a GP appointment were "the consequence of an under-resourced, underfunded, and understaffed service working under unsustainable pressures".

She added: "While we understand that difficulties in getting GP appointments will drive some patients to take matters into their own hands and turn to the internet or try to 'cure' themselves, we urge them to use reputable NHS-accredited resources which are written and quality assured by qualified and experienced medical professionals."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.