The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to give patients a legal right to see a GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if in urgent need.
The policy would be enshrined into law in the NHS constitution, putting a duty on the government and health service to make sure it happens. It would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs, fixing pension rules to prevent so many doctors retiring early, and launching a recruitment drive to encourage those who've left the NHS to return.
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for the setting up of a 24/7 GP appointment booking hotline, so people can make an appointment whenever they need to. Those who want to see their doctor face-to-face would be able to choose to do so if they wanted to.
Research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed a stark postcode lottery in GP appointment times, with over one in four patients in some parts of the country waiting over two weeks to see their doctor.
Analysis commissioned by the party from the House of Commons Library shows that there were five million GP appointments in England with waits of over 14 days in September 2022, making up 17.9% of the total. This is a significant increase from 11.9% of appointments with waits of more than two weeks at the start of the year. Every area in the country has seen a rise in waits of over two weeks since January 2022.
At the last election in 2019, the Conservatives promised to recruit 6,000 more GPs - but the number of qualified GPs has actually fallen by more than 500 since then.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
"Patients are suffering from years of neglect under the Conservatives, who have repeatedly broken their promise to recruit more GPs.
"Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week, or within 24 hours if they are in urgent need. This would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS."