People are delaying visiting their GP and are putting their health at risk, according to a new report.

Two in five UK residents say they have delayed visiting their GP after experiencing worrying symptoms, says the survey, which was conducted by The Information Standard, a certification programme for health and care information commissioned by NHS England.

As a result of these delays, more than two-thirds of those questioned said their symptoms had stayed the same or got worse, while more than one in three were advised by their GP that that they should have come earlier. One in five had to be prescribed a stronger dose of treatment and nearly one in six were told they had had “a lucky escape.”

When asked why they had put off visiting their GP, half of respondents thought symptoms would clear up on their own and over one in three did not want to “waste their GP’s time.” Nearly one in four had researched their symptoms and felt they did not need to go to their GP, and more than a quarter had tried to self-treat using over-the-counter medicines. 

The survey also found that over half of those who delayed a visit to their GP had turned to the Internet for health information instead.

43% of the women surveyed had delayed a visit to their GP compared to 37% of men and, when delaying, women were more likely to turn to the Internet for health information instead, at 59% compared to 43% of men.

Commenting on these findings, Ann Robinson, director of public awareness for the Information Standard, said: “people are delaying their GP visit for various reasons, but regardless of the reason why, our concern is that people are admitting to self-diagnosing and self-treating in the meantime.”

“Unreliable health information in these circumstances could then have a detrimental effect on their health. If people are looking for health information, they should make sure it’s trustworthy so that they can make a fully-informed and safe decision.”

Ms Robinson urged consumers to look for the quality mark on health websites and leaflets of The Information Standard, a programme that certifies health and care organisations as reliable sources of information.