RCGP unveils 300,000-signature petition demanding GP investment

More than 75% of British people believe the NHS needs more GPs, an RCGP poll has found, as the college handed in a 300,000-name petition at Downing Street demanding investment in primary care.

Petition: Dr Maureen Baker (left) and Patricia Wilkie (Photo: RCGP/Grange Photography)
Petition: Dr Maureen Baker (left) and Patricia Wilkie (Photo: RCGP/Grange Photography)

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker and National Association of Patient Participation chairwoman Patricia Wilkie handed in the petition at 10 Downing Street on Thursday.

A total of 2,014 petitions were collected by practices across the UK in support of the college’s Put Patients First campaign, which calls for the proportion of the NHS budget spent on primary care to rise from 8% to 11% by 2017.

The 300,000 signatures are well short of the college’s ambitious 1m target, but demonstrate - alongside the college’s latest poll – the strength of public support, and concern, for general practice.

National crisis on GP appointments

More than half of respondents to a ComRes poll for the RCGP said waiting times to see GPs were now a ‘national crisis’.

Just 23% said there were enough GPs to cope with rising demand, and 65% fear soaring GP workload threatens the standard of care the profession can offer patients.

The college is warning that the profession’s workforce is near crisis because more than 1,000 GPs a year will be leaving the profession by 2022.

Around 22% of GPs in London could step back from frontline patient care within the next five years, because 41% are aged over 50, while the proportion of unfilled GP posts has nearly quadrupled in the last three years – from 2.1% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2013.

RCGP manifesto

A manifesto published by the RCGP ahead of next year’s general election calls for 8,000 new GPs, and sets out 10 key actions that could save general practice.

Dr Baker said: ‘Unless we invest substantially in expanding the GP workforce, general practice is at risk of going into meltdown – with the profession’s ability to deliver decent patient care increasingly compromised.

‘Such is the extent of the crisis that the time has now come for the Government to look at offering incentives to medical graduates who agree to train and practice in under-doctored or deprived areas – in a similar way to the incentives offered to teachers who agree to teach in deprived areas.

‘We urgently need a new deal for general practice and hope that our manifesto will persuade the political parties to acknowledge that general practice is crumbling before our very eyes and that they need to take action.’

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