New RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker, who took over the top job on 16 November, warned that GP funding has fallen by almost two thirds to 8.4% of total NHS spending UK-wide - the lowest on record. In 2004/5, general practice received 10.33% of NHS funding.
More funding would result in shorter waiting times, more flexible opening hours, more online services, longer consultations and improved care co-ordination, the RCGP said.
Dr Baker warned that general practice is at ‘breaking point’ and said investment was needed as a ‘matter of urgency’.
The RCGP is now calling for general practice to receive 11% of the total NHS budget across the UK by 2017, as part of a campaign called Put Patients First, Back General Practice, launched by the college and the charity National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP), which promotes patient participation in primary care.
Dr 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.
‘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.’
Figures published by the RCGP and the NAPP on 16 November showed that the proportion of NHS funding spent on general practice in England was 10.55% in 2004/5, but fell to 8.5% in 2011/12.
In Scotland, 9.47% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004/5. By 2011/12 this had fallen to 7.78%. In Wales 8.58% of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004/5, but by 2011/12 this had fallen to 7.77%.
Figures are not available for Northern Ireland for 2004/5 but by 2011/12, the figure was down to 8.1% from 8.22% the previous year.