Most patients within 20-minute walk of GP practice, study shows

Around 85% of people in England live within 20 minutes' walk of a GP practice, according to the first study to assess proximity to primary care in this way.

GP practices: most patients within 20-minute walk
GP practices: most patients within 20-minute walk

Proximity to primary care in deprived areas was even greater, with more than 90% of patients within 20 minutes of a GP surgery, the study found.

Researchers from the University of Durham said their findings suggested pharmacies could play a greater role in delivering public health services to patients, because 89% of patients lived within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy.

The study comes after the RCGP and Royal Pharmaceutical Society announced plans to employ an ‘army’ of pharmacists to work closely with GPs.

GPs work with pharmacies

'Our study shows that due to the differences in accessibility - particularly considering deprivation and urbanity - community pharmacies and GP premises could both be used to deliver public health services,' the study authors wrote in BMJ Open.

The researchers looked at ‘straight-line’ distance without taking walking paths into account. The study also did not look at the practice at which patients were officially registered, or the catchment area of each practice.

The RCGP said the study findings were ‘encouraging’ but that more GPs and practice staff were needed to ensure access to GP appointments.

‘Whichever government comes into power after today’s general election desperately needs to implement robust plans to "recruit, retain, return" [8,000 GPs],' RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said.

‘We also look forward to working with the new government to explore different ways of working, such as pharmacists working as part of the practice team, and new models of care, such as practices working together in federations to pool resources in order to deliver more and better services to patients, wherever they live.’

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