Belays in getting an appointment with a GP can mean extra costs in time off for employers
Nearly half the patients in England and Wales are unable to see their GP within a day of making an appointment, a figure that rises to 78 per cent in Scotland, according to a survey.
The study by consumers' magazine Which? found many people were still waiting far too long to see a doctor, even when it is for urgent conditions or emergencies.
When it came to emergencies, just over half of the 1,232 people polled said they were seen the same day, but 30 per cent had to wait at least two days and 13 per cent five days or more.
Delays in treatment, particularly when patients are referred to a GP by an OH nurse, can be frustrating, potentially exacerbate a condition and mean extra costs for an organisation if the employee has to take a longer period off work as a result.
The Department of Health has set a target that by 2004 all patients in England should be able to see a GP within two working days of calling the surgery.
The Scottish Executive has said it is working to ensure patients can get access to an appropriate member of the primary care team in 48 hours.
People with ongoing medical conditions were less likely than those who had not been ill over the past year to find information from their GP helpful, the survey found.
The BMA has blamed the situation on the workforce crisis in the profession.