Statistics published by the NHS found that men were significantly less likely to attend a GP practice than women, with the biggest difference being in the 20-40 age group where women attended a GP practice twice as often. There are various reasons as to why men don’t attend as much, some of the core reasons being; delaying attending until it becomes vital, toxic masculinity, fear and delayed access to healthcare services.
Delay Seeking Medical Attention
Research found there was a link between men’s low attendance to primary services and their higher usage of hospital services, which can be attributed to their tendency to defer seeking medical attention until their illness becomes severe. The British Journal of Cancer found that men particularly defer seeking medical attention for cancer-related symptoms until the later stages. For the 20-40 age group, the most common form of cancer is testicular which for many men may be a difficult conversation but delaying seeing a GP could mean they miss out on lifesaving screening tests.
To overcome mens’ tendency of delaying a trip to the doctors, GPs could consider regular screening invitations for their male patients. Women are regularly invited to breast cancer or cervical screenings, yet there is no equivalent for men. You could send an automatic message to all of the male patients registered at your practice and invite them to a screening. The patients may be more inclined to attend if the messaging they receive is around preventative care.
For this core demographic, mental health is especially important, in 2018 men accounted for three-quarters of all UK suicides. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts in the mental health sector, the waiting time to access these services has significantly risen, with the average wait of around 2 months. As a GP service, there are ways of providing more help to this demographic:
- Staying open – Many of the men affected by mental health issues may find it difficult to visit your practice between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Late opening hours could see extra care being given to vulnerable patients
- Tele-medicine – If you have the capacity to offer an over-the-phone service that provides patients with simple advice, this could be really helpful in their ongoing care
- On-going advice – Rather being passed from one doctor to another, consider how a care plan can be formed for your patients and male patients may be more likely to discuss issues with someone that they have formed a relationship with, whom they trust
Simple initiatives like this could have a significant impact on men’s attendance levels to GP practices. Ensure to offer as much support as possible and drive conversation to make men’s health issues less taboo.