The deficiency in funding for general practice has already led to a shortfall of more than 8,300 general practitioners across the country.
And the RCGP predicts that the growing black hole in NHS funding – caused by the failure of the ring-fenced NHS budget to keep pace with growing demand – will lead to the deficit in GP numbers growing by a further 7,500 by 2021.
The RCGP has been warning for some time now that, with ballooning workloads and hugely longer hours being spent by family doctors in surgery, general practice across the country is in dire straits.
The extent of these problems was revealed in a recent poll of GPs, commissioned by the RCGP, which showed that 85% of family doctors think that general practice is ‘in crisis’, while half say that ‘GPs can no longer guarantee safe care to their patients’.
The poll also revealed that 55% of GPs conduct 40-60 patient consultations each day, 46% of GPs work at least 11 hours in surgery and 84% say their workload has increased substantially over the last five years.
The survey, conducted by Research Now in June, also revealed that 22% of family doctors have had to seek support, guidance or advice for work-related stress, and that four in five GPs are more likely to want to quit the profession than they were five years ago.
Despite the fact that general practitioners conduct 90% of the NHS contacts each year, general practice only receives 9% of NHS funding, with this figure having fallen in recent years.
The RCGP warning comes hard on the heels of the launch on Thursday of the NHS England report, The NHS Belongs to the People – A Call to Action, which predicted that by 2020/21 the gap between the NHS budget and rising costs of caring for an ageing population, with increasingly complex health conditions, could reach £30bn per annum.
By assessing the impact of the predicted funding shortfall, the RCGP has calculated that general practice will face a deficit of £2.7bn in 2021, which based on the typical costs of employing partner and salaried GPs would lead to a further shortfall of 7,500 GPs across England.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP, said:
“The fact that, in just eight years, we could see a shortfall of almost 16,000 GPs is truly shocking.
“General practice is at the heart of the NHS and if it is left to wither, as is the case now, it could sow the seeds of an unprecedented disintegration of the NHS, both in primary care and secondary care.
“Such is the key role that general practice plays, that if it starts to fall apart the impact will be felt across the rest of the health service – leading to longer waits in A&E and ever more last minute cancellations of elective surgery.
“As a first step, ministers must move to protect patient care by increasing the funding for general practice to 10% of the NHS budget immediately, and they should work with us to help boost the number of medical graduates going into general practice.
“Only by supporting general practice and allowing it to treat more patients in the community, can the Government protect the NHS from catastrophe – and ensure that the health service can meet the projected health needs of the population.”
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 44,000 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.