GPs warn of 'catastrophic' consequences of £400m Government spending cuts

Ahead of Royal College of GPs conference, its chair warns that spending per patient has fallen by 7 per cent in the last three years, and the system is 'at tipping point'

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The Independent Online

General practices are on the brink of a “catastrophe” because of crippling Government cuts, the leading body of doctors has said.

The Royal College of GPs said investment in the GP system has fallen by £400 million in real terms over just three years, leaving it “at tipping point” with exhausted doctors putting the health of patients at risk.

The college has conducted analysis ahead of its annual conference in Harrogate today which says that this translates to a cut of 7 per cent in spending per person visiting their local doctor.

The group’s chair, Dr Clare Gerada, said: “Our figures should send out a warning to Government and the rest of the NHS that we will soon have a catastrophe on our hands if urgent action is not taken.”

Dr Gerada questioned the Government’s decision to plough an extra £500 million investment into A & E departments, pointing out that while more than 90 per cent of patient contact within the NHS is with a GP, only 9 per cent of the entire budget is currently awarded to general practices.

“What we need is our fair share of funding - at least 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget and at least 10,000 more GPs - so that GPs can provide more services for patients in their communities.”

Dr Gerada told BBC Breakfast this morning that general practice was “at tipping point” with doctors overworked and exhausted.

“If we are working beyond 11 hours we are not safe,” she said.

“You don't want a tired GP any more than a tired pilot or a tired surgeon. We can't keep expecting them to do more.”

She said the lack of funding has already manifested itself in appointment delays and bigger queues for patients, warning that: “Once general practice starts to crumble, the entire NHS will follow with disastrous consequences for our patients.”

With Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt set to address the college’s conference this afternoon, his Labour counterpart Andy Burnham told the BBC: “These figures are embarrassing for a prime minister who got elected on a promise not to cut the NHS.

“They make a mockery of yet more promises he has made on GP access this week and show he simply can't be trusted on the NHS.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “GPs do a vital job. Investment in general practice increased 1.3 per cent last year but we know GPs are under pressure to do more with tight budgets.

“That's why this week we announced a £50 million fund for GPs who want to pioneer new ways of working, to help make the best use of their time.

“We have also asked Health Education England to work towards getting 50 per cent of medical students to become GPs so they have more resources.”