GPs in England Facing “Catastrophe” in the Midst of Funding Cuts
The GP system in England is set for a “catastrophe” due to funding cuts leading doctors have warned.
Analysis conducted by the Royal College of GPs indicates that over the past three years investments in general practice has reduced by £400m in real terms.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the RCGP which is meeting in Harrogate the government wanted to increase access to GPs by extending opening hours.
On Tuesday the prime minister outlined £50m pilot programmes in nine areas of England to widen access.
However the college said its analysis which is based on official data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that despite the government wanting to move care away from hospitals it was taking money away from GPs.
The chairwoman of the RCGP Dr Clare Gerada said the cuts meant the doctors were having to work with fewer resources which could damage patients services.
£8.5bn was invested in general practice in 2012 -13 when everything from spending on salaries IT tests and drugs was taken into account compared to the £8.3bn invested in 2009-10 the equivalent of £8.9bn in 2012-13.
This works out as a 7% drop of spending per patient a fall from £168.40 to £156.45.
Dr Gerada highlighted that the investment represented 9% of the entire NHS budget even though GPs had 90% of the contact with patients.
She told the BBC: “Our figures should sent 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 to reverse the decline in funding.
“GPs are keen to do more for their patients but we are heaving under the pressure of ever increasing workloads and diminishing resources.
“Some of us are routinely working 11- hour days with up to 60 patient contacts in a single day and this is not safe or sustainable.
“You do not want a tired GP seeing you. You do not want a tired GP any more than you want a tired pilot or a tired surgeon.”
She is also concerned about the season ahead and said that general practice was near to reaching a “tipping point” which would see the profession “fall over.”
“We’re trying to squeeze more and more activity out of a smaller and smaller pot of money” she added.
“If we have a cold winter I’m really afraid that patients will suffer considerably.”
“The front door of the NHS is the GP’s surgery. If that gives the rest of the NHS will and give and very rapidly.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who addressed the conference of Thursday afternoon had no objections to the figures.
However he did say that investment problems in GPs “goes further back than three years”.
“In the NHS we have invested in hospitals in A&Es and we have not had a parallel investment in primary care.”
The BBC reported that he said that the government were now looking to invest in programmes which increased access to GPs – following the announcement this week to increase use of technologies such as email and Skype and opening hours.
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy told the BBC: “This chimes with what patients are saying to us. They are finding it harder to access GPs both in and out of hours.
“The mantra is about moving care out of hospitals and into the community but if we are going to achieve that we have to stop throwing money at hospitals and invest in GPs so they can provide quality care.”
Shadow health secretary 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.”
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