Patients hold back to ease the pressure on GPs



4 October 2019

  • Just one in four go to their GP as soon as they feel ill, but most parents arrange appointments straight away if it’s for children
  • Nearly four out of five worry that GPs are under a lot of pressure


New research1 from AIG Life shows patients are holding back on arranging GP appointments as they worry about the pressure on family doctors.

Just one in four (24%) of working adults immediately arrange an appointment as soon as they feel ill while nearly a third (30%) say they hold out for as long as possible before arranging an appointment even if they are suffering. Parents are quicker to act if it’s their children who are ill – more than half (54%) say they go to the doctor’s straight away and just 3% hold off for as long as possible.

NHS data2 shows an average of 842,000 people attend surgery appointments each day with around 52% seeing GPs and the rest seeing other practice staff. Average waiting times for appointments are currently 6.4 days in England with only around two out of five (43%) able to make an appointment on the same day. AIG’s study found just one in three (33%) of adults can always get an appointment at a time to suit them.

Its nationwide study among more than 2,000 employees and self-employed workers found widespread support for GPs – around 78% say they believe family doctors are under immense pressure and 80% worry the NHS is unable to cope with the demands put upon it.

That helps to explain the reluctance to bother GPs with minor complaints – three-quarters (73%) believe people should take more responsibility to look after themselves.

To give people greater control of their health and wellbeing, the insurer has launched online health service Smart Health to give new and existing customers unlimited, 24-hour access to online health services at no extra cost. They can use the dedicated Smart Health GP app to make and manage their appointments at a time that suits them.


Debbie Bolton, Head of Customer Operations & Chief Underwriter at AIG Life, commented:

“People understand the pressure that GPs are under and often try not to bother their GP with what they believe are minor ailments. This delay in seeing their doctor can help ease the burden on GPs who already struggle to cope with demand for their services.

“However, there is a fine line between protecting their GPs and leaving conditions untreated in the hope everything will be fine. Sometimes early intervention by a GP is the most appropriate and safest thing to do. 

“Services via a smartphone or tablet such as Smart Health with 24/7 GP access can provide the support and important signposting a customer needs without the need to add to the pressure on their own GP practice.”


AIG’s research shows nearly two out of three adults (64%) frequently look up their symptoms online before going to the doctor and that more than half (51%) often just want advice or reassurance from their GP.




1 Research conducted by ID Insight Consulting among a representative sample of 2,008 working adults aged 18 to 65 between 8th and 15th April 2019