GP services under pressure
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) have highlighted that GP services will be under huge pressure this year due to funding cuts. They are predicting that patients will fail to get a GP appointment when they are unwell on at least 34 million occasions in England.
The professional body says that GP practices are being “brought to their knees” by an unprecedented fall in money for healthcare in the community and rising demand for their services. This will inevitably result in further pressure on A&E departments, because more patients are likely to turn up at emergency wards if they are unable to get appointments at their local surgeries.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said:
“GPs and practice nurses can’t keep doing more for less and now that funding for general practice in England has slumped to just 8.5% of the NHS budget the service we provide is in crisis.
“All three political parties say they want to see more patients being treated in the community, where care can be provided to patients more economically, in their own surroundings, and yet resources are increasingly being diverted away from communities and into hospitals.”
Successive governments have promised to make it easier for people to get GP appointments, amid persistent complaints about unavailability in some areas. David Cameron last year said he would like to force surgeries to open from 8am to 8pm and over the weekend to ease pressure on A&E units, a scheme currently being piloted.
The RCGP said it calculated the 34 million figure from data in the GP Patient Survey, which found that 10% of patients who sought a consultation with a GP or practice nurse failed to get one. They added that almost 11% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2005, compared with 8.5% in 2011.
However, the Department of Health accused the RCGP of using partial and conflated data, confusing the number of people and consultations. They say:
“The GP survey showed the vast majority of patients are satisfied with their GP and rated their experience of making an appointment as good.”