Patients are being forced to WHISPER to their GPs as the walls are too thin

Scores of patients are having to whisper to their GPs because of thin walls, a report has suggested. 

The shock finding comes from one of the largest patient surveys ever conducted on surgery buildings in Britain.

The poll by the Patients Association found nearly six in ten patients said their local practice was too small to allow for private conversations.

A lack of soundproofing in rooms and space in reception areas were areas raised in the report, based on answers from 703 patients. 

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, branded the situation a ‘huge concern’, going against patients’ rights.  

The report said that some people felt it was ‘impossible’ to speak to reception staff without being overheard in the busy waiting area.

The report said 41 per cent said their surgery had a poor environment that made them feel anxious or stressed.

Ms Power said: ‘It’s a huge concern that the majority of people completing our survey reported issues relating to privacy and confidentiality at their local surgery.

‘This goes against the law and official NHS guidance, and needs to be addressed.

‘Patients who are sick and unwell will already be anxious about going to see a GP – the last thing they should need to worry about is whether their private conversations will be overheard by other people.’

Confidentiality was one of the main issues raised in the poll, but disabled access and old waiting rooms were also listed. 

While three-quarters of those asked said there was a ramp at the entrance to the building, less than half (46 per cent) had access to a lift, forcing doctors to carry out appointments downstairs.

Narrow corridors and poorly-designed buildings often make manoeuvring in a wheelchair difficult, patients said.

Comments from respondents included that surgeries built as early as the 1970s, were not fit to hold an increasing population. 

Patients also commented on the cleanliness of their surgery, with ‘lingering smells’ in the toilet described as off-putting. 

One in three people said a lack of parking or decent public transport was hindering their access to GPs – with many missing their appointments while hunting for a parking space. 

The report called for a number of changes to avoid embarrassing situations, such as a separate area for reception with a private area where patients can talk without being overheard. 

It added: ‘There is a legal duty for health professionals to protect and conserve patient confidentiality at all times whilst buildings are not always conducive to this. 

‘An interesting dichotomy is raised by patient feedback (including in this survey) which indicates that many people have traditionally low expectations and are prepared to accept poor surroundings in NHS settings.’ 

Previous research have shown that a fear of discussing health with a hostile receptionist puts people off going to their GP.

Almost half of patients are deterred by seeing their GP in fear of being grilled by reception staff, the research, published in the Journal of Public Health in 2016, said. 

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