The stark warning comes from the Royal College of General Practitioners who say that the proportion of NHS funding being spent on general practice has been falling for successive years, with GP practices being starved of the resources they need to meet the growing needs of patients and to safeguard the future of patient care.
The predictions are based on RCGP calculations for the time period 2011/12 to 2015/16, at 2011/2012 prices.
Only 9% of the NHS budget in England was spent on general practice in 2010/11, even though GPs see over 1 million patients per day and 90% of all NHS activity takes place in general practice.
The breakdown of NHS spending for 2010/11 for A&E and acute care was 47%, and a further 19% was spent on other secondary care such as maternity and mental health, with 10% spent on community care.
The College is worried that if funding and resources continue to be stretched, this will seriously impact on the ability of GPs to continue to provide timely access to high quality care and services for their patients.
RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada, said: “General practice is the most effective and cost-effective way of providing patient care – a whole day’s care in general practice costs one tenth of a day in hospital. But funding and resources for our services is being stretched to the limits, with family doctors facing ballooning workloads, record hours being worked in surgery and real consequences for patient care.
“Personalised continuous and integrated care are the cornerstones of general practice – something that the Health Secretary himself has acknowledged this week based on his visits to GP surgeries.
“GPs want to be able to do more for their patients and deliver the care that they deserve. General practice is becoming increasingly challenging and complex – with an ageing population and more patients presenting with obesity and more complex and multiple conditions – and the funding we receive to provide services must reflect this.
“GPs have seen consultation rates explode in recent years. We now routinely see up to 60 patients on a daily basis whereas even 10 years ago this would happen only in exceptional circumstances such as a flu outbreak.
“Most GPs want to help alleviate pressure on hospitals, including on A&E, with a shift in care back to the community, but this must be matched with adequate resourcing and we cannot continue to juggle an ever-increasing workload with a decreasing workforce.
“On the day that the Health Secretary is outlining his aspirations for the future of GP care, we hope that he will heed our warnings. We want the Government to invest in GPs and patients to the necessary levels that will guarantee safe and effective care for our patients today and in the future.”
RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7574/7575/7576
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 46,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.