'Unprecedented' cuts see GPs warn half of Britain will be unable to get appointments

The Royal College of General Practitioners says the profession is 'on its knees' and wants family practices to get a larger share of the NHS budget

More than 34 million people will fail to secure an appointment with their doctor at some point this year, the GP’s professional body has claimed, blaming “unprecedented” cuts to funding for family practices.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said that the profession was “on its knees” and called for GPs to get a larger share of the NHS budget.

However, the Department of Health dismissed their findings – which would imply that more than half the UK population will miss out an appointment this year – as “complete nonsense” and accused the college of “sensationalising” the issue.

General practice has seen its share of the NHS budget – which totalled more than £109bn in England last year – significantly eroded in recent years, from 11 per cent in 2005/06 to 8.5 per cent in 2011/12.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said that Government ambitions to improve patient care outside of hospitals – part of their long-term strategy to make the NHS more focussed on prevention rather than treatment – would be impossible without investment in GPs, and called on ministers to restore GP funding to 11 per cent of the total NHS budget by 2017.

“GPs and practice nurses want to provide high quality care for every single patient who seeks a consultation, and over the last decade we have increased the number of patients we see each year in England by 40m,” she said. “However [we] can’t keep doing more for less.”

However, the Government accused the RCGP of making “misleading extrapolations of partial data”. The 34m figure is based on the 10 per cent of people who told the GP survey that they had been unable to secure a GP appointment for a particular health concern. The total number of GP consultations that take place in a year is 340m – 10 per cent of which is 34m.

A DH spokesperson said the RCGP was conflating the number of people with number of consultations.

“The GP survey showed the vast majority of patients are satisfied with their GP and rated their experience of making an appointment as good,” the spokesperson said, adding that GPs had been given an extra £50m to modernise services and stay open longer.

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