Responding to the urgent and emergency care services review, Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:
“We are pleased that this report recognises the vital role of general practice and other community primary care services in providing care to patients with urgent needs.
“It is encouraging to see a report that sets out landmark changes in the way NHS emergency and urgent care will look in the future but that doesn’t blame GPs. It explicitly recognises the sustained pressure and multiple demands on general practice in recent years, and the need to ‘create headroom’ to transform the way we work so that we can continue to provide safe care for our patients. For the recommendations in this report to become a reality, that ‘headroom’ has to include greater Government funding and resources, including more GPs.
“GPs want to do more to improve care for all our patients but we are already buckling under the strain of spiralling workloads and ever-decreasing resources. General practice deals with 90% of patient contacts within the NHS for less than 9% of the overall NHS budget. Many of us are routinely working 11-hour days in surgery, carrying out as many as 60 patient contacts in a single day – this is not sustainable or safe for patients or GPs. To keep adding more demands, without an increase in the number of GPs and an increase in the funding given to general practice, is not an option.
“Overwhelmingly, general practice remains the most popular choice with patients for urgent and non-urgent healthcare with well over 300 million consultations per year, considerably more than any other single service in the NHS. With greater investment in general practice we could provide more appointments, a wider range of services and improved continuity of care, as well as providing even greater value for money to the NHS.
“This report proposes a substantial overhaul of the way patients will access urgent care services and GPs are keen to play their part and clear up the confusion that many patients face about where to go when they need urgent care. But we must make sure that general practice does not get ignored or left behind in the debate. The massive under-investment that general practice has seen in recent years must be redressed as a matter of urgency, for the sake of patients and the rest of the NHS.”
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 49,000 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.