Patients need to know where to turn when they're ill, says RCGP

Publication date: 14 August 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP has responded to a report from the National Centre for Social Research on attitudes towards emergency health services and GP services.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "We understand our patients' frustrations when they cannot secure a GP appointment when they need one, and GPs and our teams share their concerns.

"However, patients should only ever go to A&E in an emergency – if they need to see a GP urgently, they should always be able to through our routine service, urgent treatment centres, and the GP out of hours service. We are working incredibly hard to ensure this happens, and this is reflected in the most recent NHS figures.

"What this research highlights is that more public education is needed so that patients know where to turn when they become ill – and it gives useful insight into where this could be directed for the best possible impact.

"The internet can be a great source of knowledge on health conditions and advice on what forms of self-care might be possible, and when seeking advice from a healthcare professional is necessary - but we would urge patients to only use reliable UK-based websites, such as, as many sites will contain non-evidence-based material.

"We would also remind patients that they can speak to a pharmacist or ring the NHS 111 for help if they are unsure whether a visit to the GP or A&E is necessary.

"As NHS GPs, we desperately want to be able to provide the necessary levels of high-quality care that our patients expect - and deserve – and which in turn will help ease pressure on other healthcare services. But as patient numbers rise, and health conditions become more complex, we are under more pressure than ever and are significantly understaffed so improvements simply cannot be achieved without significant investment into our profession."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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