Funding gap threatens longer GP waits, warns RCGP

Patients face longer waiting times to see a GP this winter as the effects of a £10bn funding gap take hold, the RCGP has warned.

Dr Maureen Baker: GP waiting times will rise (photo: James Bolt)

Research by the college identified an 8.3% fall in real-terms funding for general practice between 2005/6 and 2010/11, while overall NHS funding increased by 18%.

The research found that GPs now conduct 90% of NHS contacts for £2.4bn less each year than would have been the case if funding had kept pace with investment in secondary care.

New RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the ‘deep-seated and long-term’ funding shift from primary to secondary care was starving general practice.

In a college poll, 71% of GPs said they expected waiting times to worsen over the next two years due to the funding decrease.

The RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation are calling for general practice to receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2017, an increase of 1% a year.

Dr Baker said: ‘The vast majority of GPs think that the decline in funding for general practice will regretfully lead to longer waiting times for patients over the next two years. This lengthening of waiting times is a continuous process, and will inevitably worsen this winter as temperatures plummet.

‘GPs want to offer their patients faster and more convenient access but are being held back from doing so by a chronic lack of resources. The government must take urgent action to pump more resources into general practice so that family doctors can treat patients in the community, thereby taking the pressure off hospitals.’

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