Demonstration for public health in Madrid, on May 19. Carlos Lujan (Europa Press)
In Spain, you have to wait an average of five days to see a family doctor, denounces a study published by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) on Monday. It represents more than double what is considered acceptable in this service, which is intended to provide practically immediate attention, for a maximum of 48 hours, according to the Strategic Framework for Primary Care, established by the autonomous communities themselves and the Ministry of Health. four years ago.
Madrid and Catalonia, with almost six and seven days waiting for a face-to-face appointment, respectively, are the worst-off communities, according to the study carried out by the organization. Telephone appointments exceed seven days in Madrid and five in Catalonia, although the community that is at the bottom in this chapter is Aragon, with an average of 7.5 days.
Two other autonomies are above the average (4.9 days): Andalucía and Comunidad Valenciana. In contrast, seven communities have fewer waits than the Spanish average: Murcia (the only one that does not reach three days), Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Asturias, the Basque Country, Galicia and the Canary Islands.
The OCU has been measuring these delays for 20 years and those in this study are the worst in all this time. Only 19% of users got an appointment the same day or the next, a figure that has been gradually falling since 2003, when the first analysis was made; then it stood at 64%.
The decline has been constant, but a setback can be seen just after the pandemic, when the percentage of patients who get an appointment in 48 hours goes from 40% to 19%, less than half. The study thus puts figures to a widespread citizen sensation: that of the deterioration of primary care, which professionals have been denouncing for months based on strikes and demonstrations in half of Spain.
The poor results are not restricted to the family doctor: appointments with the pediatrician also exceed 48 hours and average 2.9 days if it is a face-to-face appointment and 2.7 days if it is by telephone (there are no regionalized data). . Nursing services, however, mostly comply with waiting times, which range between 1.6 and 2 days. Catalonia is the only exception, with an average delay of three.
To arrive at these statistics, the OCU has had the collaboration of 2,000 members, who pretended to make an appointment at their health center with their family doctor, with their nursing professional and with their pediatrician in the event that they had minor children. The request for the appointment was online (not by phone or going to the center): they had to access the website of the health service of their autonomous community or through the mobile application and write down the first available date for a consultation, both for face-to-face and telephone appointment. The calculation is made only by counting the business days to obtain the appointment. In the five communities that do not appear in the study (Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, Cantabria and the Balearic Islands), the sample was too small.
“In no autonomous community for which we have sufficient data have we been granted a medical appointment within two days, so it is evident that the recommendation agreed in 2019 between the Ministry of Health and the autonomous communities is not being complied with,” laments the OCU in a statement.
The organization dismisses the situation as unacceptable and asks the administrations that the maximum waiting time for primary care be 48 hours, that the waiting times for primary care be transparent and public (only those for specialized and surgical operations are published). and that sufficient consultation time (10 minutes) is guaranteed so that the doctor can attend to the patient.