Patients bear the brunt as GPs reveal a shocking £400m "black hole"

Publication date: 03 October 2013

Latest figures compiled by the Royal College of GPs reveal GPs face a £400 million "black hole" as a result of cuts to general practice over the past three years

GPs are facing a £400 million "black hole" as a result of swingeing cuts to general practice over the past consecutive three years – almost the equivalent of the Government's recent cash injection in A&E.

Latest figures compiled by the Royal College of GPs reveal for the first time the shocking extent of successive underinvestment in general practice – with the amount spent in general practice per person in England dropping by 7% in real terms between 2010 and 2013, due to a combination of funding cuts and population growth.

For the third year running, GP surgeries in England have suffered a decrease in resources, while the amount of money going to hospitals is continuing to rise and taking an ever greater proportion of NHS resources. In 2012/13, real terms investment in general practice fell to £8,459m from £8,865m in 2009/10.

Over 90% of patient contacts within the NHS are carried out in general practice yet it receives only 9% of the entire NHS budget. The College is warning that the cumulative effects of year on year decreases in funding are now having a disastrous effect on patient care and it is calling on the Government for major investment in general practice in order to protect patient services and safety.

The figures, revealed today at the RCGP's annual national conference in Harrogate, are drawn from comparisons of annual data produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

They align with the findings of an RCGP poll conducted by ComRes in August this year, in which more than 80% of GPs said that they now have insufficient resources to provide high quality patient care and nearly half (47%) of GPs had already had to cut back on the range of services they provide for their patients. Over 70% predicted longer waiting times for GP appointments within the next two years.

RCGP 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 to reverse the decline in funding for general practice and provide GPs with an appropriate amount to spend on each patient every year.

"For years politicians, health professionals and patients alike have been saying that we must shift the centre of gravity of the health service away from hospitals, with more care delivered to patients closer to home, and a greater focus on prevention. But these figures show that we are in fact moving in the opposite direction.

"GPs are keen to do more for their patients but we are heaving under the pressure of ever increasing workloads and diminishing resources, including a chronic shortfall of GPs. 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, for patients or GPs. We simply cannot do more without the funding and resources to back it up.

"We are working our hardest to make sure that patients are not affected but the status quo is no longer an option. We must have an emergency package of additional investment for general practice to protect GP services and protect our patients from cuts to their care."

She added:

"General practice is the most cost-effective and efficient arm of the health service – GPs keep the rest of the NHS stable and secure. Once general practice starts to crumble, the entire NHS will follow with disastrous consequences for our patients.

"In August this year, the Government announced an additional £500 million over the next two years for A&E departments. What we need is our fair share of funding – at least 10% of the entire NHS budget and at least 10,000 more GPs – so that GPs can provide more services for patients in their communities."

ENDS

Further Information

RCGP Press office - 020 3188 7574/7575/7576
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 44,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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