The proportion of NHS funding spent on general practice has slumped across Great Britain over the last nine years to the lowest percentage on record – according to new figures published today (Saturday 16 November) by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the National Association for Patient Participation (N.A.P.P).
In 2004-2005, 10.33% of the British NHS budget was spent on general practice. By 2011-2012, this figure had declined by almost two percentage points to 8.4% – even lower than previously thought.
When Northern Ireland is factored in, the percentage share of the NHS budget spent on general practice across the UK has fallen as low as 8.39%.
GPs say the slump in funding is compromising the standard of care they can offer patients, leading to longer waiting times, and increasing pressure on hospitals.
The decline in funding for general practice comes despite the fact that general practice carries out 90% of all contacts across the NHS.
In England, 10.55% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004-2005. By 2011-2012, this had fallen to 8.5%.
In Scotland, 9.47% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004-2005. By 2011-2012, this had fallen to 7.78%.
In Wales, 8.58% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004-2005. By 2011-2012, this had fallen to 7.77%.
Figures are not available for Northern Ireland for 2004-2005, However, by 2011-2012, the figure for the country was down to 8.1% from 8.22% the previous year.
The reductions in funding across the UK have been so severe that, according to two recent opinion polls of GPs commissioned by the RCGP:
- 70% of GPs fear that waiting times will worsen over the next two years;
- 80% of GPs say they no longer have the resources to provide high-level patient care; and
- 47% of GPs say they have had to withdraw some patient services.
In response to the continued slump in funding the RCGP and NAPP are today launching a new campaign, Put Patients First, Back General Practice, which is calling for the Westminster and Devolved Governments to increase the percentage of NHS spending on general practice across the UK to 11% by 2017.
GPs say this increase would protect patients from further cuts and lead to:
- Shorter waiting times for appointments;
- More flexible opening hours;
- More online services;
- Longer consultations and better continuity of care – especially for those with long-term conditions;
- Improved care co-ordination and planning for the frail elderly and those with complex care needs; and
- The ability to access more services close to home, without the need to travel to hospital.
New Chair of the RCGP Dr Maureen Baker said:
“During the last nine years, GPs across the country have had to cope with a growing and an ageing population, in which more and more people have been affected by multiple, serious long-term conditions – and yet funding for general practice has been slashed.
“On the one hand, the people who run the NHS across the UK say they want more people to be cared for in the community. On the other, resources have relentlessly drifted away from community-based health services towards more expensive hospital-based care.
“The flow of funding away from general practice has been contrary to the rhetoric and has happened in the absence of any overall strategy as to how we spend the NHS budget.
“The share of the NHS budget spent on general practice has slumped to the lowest point on record. The various NHS bodies and governments who decide how we divide the NHS funding cake in the UK have inadvertently allowed a situation to develop in which funding for general practice is being steadily eroded. With services now at breaking point, it’s time to come up with a plan to turn the tide.”
She added: “We need to increase our investment in general practice as a matter of urgency, so that we can take the pressure off our hospitals, where medical provision is more expensive, and ensure that more people can receive care where they say they want it – in the community.
“The governments of the UK must end this crisis by increasing spending on patient care in general practice to 11% of the total NHS budget across the UK by 2017.”
President and Chair of the National Association for Patient Participation, Patricia Wilkie, said:
“We believe that there needs to be increased investment in patients and GP care in order to improve and sustain the high standards of quality in patient care that patients need and GPs want to give.”
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.