Over 70% of GPs are forecasting longer waiting times for GP appointments within the next two years – as nearly half (47%) reveal that they have cut back on the range of services they provide for their patients.
In the latest survey by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) highlighting the growing crisis in general practice, more than 80% of respondents said that they now have insufficient resources to provide high quality patient care.
As well as the reduction in patient services, 39% of respondents to the ComRes poll also said they had cut practice staff and over half had experienced difficulty recruiting and retaining GPs.
Worryingly, four in five GPs were concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to deliver continuity of care to vulnerable elderly people – which has been highlighted as a priority by the English Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. And 72% of GPs in England said that the amount of time they are able to spend on frontline patient care has been reduced as a result of the new clinical commissioning responsibilities they have been given.
The RCGP is now calling on all four Governments across the UK for an emergency package of additional investment for general practice – before there are disastrous consequences for patients.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP, said: “The results of our survey paint a bleak picture for patients, the profession and the future of general practice. GPs are grappling with a ‘double whammy’ of spiralling workloads and dwindling resources, and big cracks are now starting to appear in the care and services that we can deliver for our patients.
“We are particularly concerned about the effect this is having, and will continue to have, on waiting times for GP appointments. We fully understand that patients are already frustrated – and GPs are doing their best to improve access to appointments – but the profession is now at breaking point and we do not have the capacity to take on any more work, without the extra funding and resources to back it up.
“GPs currently make 90% of patient contacts for only 9% of the NHS budget in England. Some GPs are making up to 60 patient contacts in a single day, which is not safe, for patients or GPs.
“We are working our hardest to make sure that patients are not affected but the status quo is no longer an option. We must have an emergency package of additional investment for general practice to protect GP services and protect our patients from even deeper cuts to their care and longer waiting times.”
The RCGP survey is the latest in a series highlighting the growing crisis in general practice.
The College is concerned that the current situation in A&E departments is overshadowing the very serious problems in general practice. A previous College poll by Research Now revealed that 85% of GPs now consider the profession to be ‘in crisis’ and half of GPs are no longer able to guarantee safe patient care.
Dr Gerada added: “General practice is the most cost-effective and efficient arm of the health service – GPs keep the rest of the NHS stable and secure. Once general practice starts to crumble, the entire NHS will follow with disastrous consequences for our patients.
“Last week the English Government announced an additional £500 million for A&E departments. What we need is our fair share of funding so that GPs can do more for our patients in their communities.”
ComRes interviewed 206 General Practitioners online – 170 from England; 21 from Scotland; nine from Wales; and six from Northern Ireland – between the 7th August and 9th August 2013. Data are regionally representative by NHS Strategic Health Authority (SHA). ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available on the ComRes website, www.comres.co.uk
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.