Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Younger adults more likely to turn to walk-in centres and A&E

21 December 2014

People aged 18-34 are more than twice as likely to go to A&E or an NHS walk-in centre when they can’t see a GP compared with those aged 55 and over, Citizens Advice has revealed.

In a new report out today the national charity’s analysis of NHS GP Patient Survey data finds that access to GPs isn’t meeting the needs of younger adults. The analysis finds:

  • One in seven people (14 per cent) aged 18-34 were unable to see a GP last time they tried to make an appointment.
  • Just one in seventeen people (6 per cent) aged 55 or over said that had been unable to see their GP.
  • One in eight (13 per cent) younger adults did not get any professional help for a health problem when they’re unable to see their GP.

In Evolving expectations of GP services Citizens Advice finds that younger adults have a less positive experience of their GP service. Under a third (30 per cent) rate them as ‘very good’. By contrast people aged 75 and over are twice as likely to rate their GP service as ‘very good’ (64 per cent).

Last year almost 4,500 people came to Citizens Advice with an issue relating to GP services. One fifth (21 per cent) were younger adults aged 14-34.

Citizens Advice is urging the NHS to ensure the needs of younger adults are not overlooked. Evolving expectations of GP services finds that walk-in centres are a preferred option for younger adults if they cannot get a GP appointment, but many of these centres are closing. Fifty walk-in centres have shut down since 2010, and there are now only 185 left in England.

Where it is not possible to avoid the closure of a walk-in centre it is important to consider how the health needs of younger adults in an area can be met. Flexibility around where you can see a GP will help. From January 2015 GPs will be allowed to move away from the catchment area approach to registering patients. This means that GPs can choose to register patients near their place of work rather than near their homes- though GPs won’t have to offer this option.

And as of March 2015 all surgeries must have an online booking system. Many GP surgeries have specific times at which to call to make appointments, and people can find it hard to get through. An internet booking system will make getting appointments much easier for people who can’t phone at set times during surgery opening hours.

If younger adults struggle to access their GP or a walk-in centre there is a risk that they are more likely to go to A&E, even if it’s not a medical emergency. Citizens Advice says more need to be done to ensure younger adults can access healthcare in the community. This could include encouraging people to get medical advice from pharmacies, which are often easier to access.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

"GP services need to keep up with 21st century lifestyles. Long working hours means it can be difficult for younger adults to get an appointment with a GP, let alone one at a convenient time. As a result some people are struggling to access the medical advice they need.

"It is in the NHS’ interest to get primary healthcare for younger adults right and ensure services fit around busy working lives. A failure to meet their needs piles more pressure on budgets and is an inefficient use of scarce NHS resources.

"Many GPs are already transforming the way they provide services and embracing new technologies. It is vital that they keep up with how people of all ages want to engage with public services including healthcare."

Notes to editors:

  1. The GP Patient survey is a quantitative survey in which questionnaires are sent by post to approximately 2.6 million people across England (split across two waves). Just over 900,000 questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 34 per cent.  Surveys are sent to people who have been registered at the same GP practice for at least six months continuously.
  2. One in eight people (12 per cent) aged 18-34 has gone to A&E or an NHS walk-in centre when they’ve not been able to get a GP appointment . But only one in 17 (5.75 per cent) over 55 years went to A&E or an NHS walk-in centre when they’ve not been able to get a GP appointment.
  3. GP practices need to implement Patient Online by March 2015, which will allow online appointment booking and cancellation, repeat prescriptions and access to basic patient records. This requirement is set by General Medical Services Contracts and Personal Medical Services Agreements 2014-15.
  4. This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office on 03000 231 080, or via email at, to find out more.
  5. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  6. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  7. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  8. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  9. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  10. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.