General practice 'unsustainable' as consultations predicted to double by 2035

The current model of general practice is 'unsustainable' because the annual number of GP consultations will double by 2035 as people live longer, consultants have warned.

Dr Gerada: ‘It is difficult to stand back and look for different ways of working when you are at breaking point.’
Dr Gerada: ‘It is difficult to stand back and look for different ways of working when you are at breaking point.’

A report by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions said primary care faced a ‘demographic time bomb’.

The report warns that a combination of the efficiency challenges facing the NHS, an ageing general population and rising pressure on the GP workforce mean the status quo is ‘unlikely to be sustainable’.

It highlights data reported in March by GP showing that 22% of GPs are aged over 55. It warns that 7.8% of the profession quit or retired in 2010, a 10-year high, and warned that GP consultations per year were likely to rise to 433m by 2035.

GPs need to become ‘less of a gatekeeper and more of a care navigator’ to help patients with more complex needs get the care they need, the report said.

It calls for greater integration of care, more use of telemedicine, and increasing use of nurses and pharmacists to take on elements of patient care.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said the college had been in discussions with the DH on boosting the GP workforce. She told GP: ‘They have been listening to us at a very high level and some of the solutions may be to do with access and resources following work moving out of hospitals.’

But she said: ‘It is difficult to stand back and look for different ways of working when you are at breaking point.’

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said for most practices there is ‘no flex left’.

‘I find it galling that people keep telling us to work harder and smarter. We have already been squeezed and found different ways of working.

‘If the government are expecting us to increase our workload then there needs to be an increase in our resources so practices can invest,’ she said.

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘We are committed to making sure the NHS has the right amount of GPs and other front line NHS staff.

‘Local healthcare organisations, with their knowledge of the patients they serve, are best placed to decide how many doctors, nurses and other health professionals they need for their patients.’

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