Problems in A&E wards are “overshadowing” a crisis in general practice, family doctors have warned, as 80 per cent of GPs say they no longer have the resources to provide high-quality care.
In the latest of a succession of polls to reveal widespread discontent within the profession, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) found that 70 per cent of GPs are forecasting longer waiting times over the next two years, as surgeries cut staff and services in a response to a slow-down in Government funding.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP, said that general practice needed an emergency funding package, like the one announced to sure-up struggling accident and emergency wards last week.
“GPs are grappling with a double-whammy of spiralling workloads and dwindling resources, and big cracks are now starting to appear in the care and services that we can deliver for our patients,” she said. “We are particularly concerned about the effect this is having, and will continue to have, on waiting times for GP appointments.”
Surveys of patients have already revealed waiting times getting longer. A Patients Association poll earlier this year suggested that more than 60 per cent were now waiting at least two days to see their doctor. Dr Gerada said that GPs were working hard to meet patients’ needs – with some seeing as many as 60 patients per day – but reiterated that practices needed more help from Government.
The RCGP survey, which consulted 206 GPs in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, also found that 72 per cent of English family doctors, who now play a key role in commissioning NHS services, had been forced to reduce the amount of time they spent on patient care because of their new responsibilities.
Ben Dyson, director of commissioning policy and primary care at NHS England, agreed that pressure on parts of the health service was increasing. “Our key aim is to enable GP practices both to provide more coordinated care for people with more complex needs and to provide more accessible and responsive service,” he said.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We know that GPs are under pressure, which is why we have asked Health Education England to aim to get 50 per cent of medical students to become GPs.”