I'm actually quite lucky in that my GP Surgery is pretty good and do at least try to accommodate patients with urgent needs for appointments.
I've got a Asthma and when it's about to cycle out of control due to a honking chest infection that's arrived at the speed of an express train from nowhere the surgery are pretty good at getting me in that day for a check up and medication.
They will also prescribe over the phone i.e. you phone them, say you need to speak to a doctor, they take your number and the doctor rings you at a given time - particularly helpful if you're already at work - the script can then be picked up from the surgery after the docs have all gone home.
Having said that, the system that my surgery operates appears to be the exception rather than the rule. My experience of other surgeries, and the experience of other local friends and family across the UK is that most surgeries:
- haven't ever thought about their booking process from a patient point of view
- designed their processes at a time when most patients lived and worked round the corner and haven't felt the need to update them since
- operate a set of stupid inflexible and arbitrary rules on repeat prescriptions e.g. requests have to be made in writing and posted through their letterbox, some accept faxed requests, most don't do emailed requests
- don't address staff absence / lateness. When GPs are strolling through the door an hour late for their first session it's in most cases nothing to do with home visits and just a lack of organisation
- operate most processes on the principle that endless visits to the surgery by the patient is better than using the technology that other surgeries have adopted.
- still operate on a 9-5 rota and won't operate 8 till 8 which is actually what's needed to keep the working population well. Obviously in a small partnered practice that's more difficult to resource, which is exactly why we should be pushing for larger practices (not to mention the fact you're much more likely to get bad care in a small / single handed practice due to the lack of peer review and learning).
There's also an issue with some surgeries clearly taking on more patients on to their list than they can service with the actual working hours of the GPs - who in many cases are working significantly less hours than 10 years ago.