Crisis hit GP surgeries forced to turn away millions of patients

Publication date: 28 July 2014

GP surgeries are so overstretched due to the lack of investment in general practice that in 2015 on more than 51.3m occasions patients in England will be unable to get an appointment to see a GP or nurse when they contact their local practice, according to new research.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the number of occasions during which patients have to wait more than a week to see their GP or practice nurse are set to go through the 50m barrier for the first time ever following successive rises in previous years: up from 41.9m occasions in 2013 and 46m occasions this year.

If current trends continue, the College predicts that the total number of occasions when patients will have to wait more than a week to see a GP will rise to at least 58.2m in 2016.

The research by the College found that the problem of rapidly growing numbers of patients reporting they are having problems securing an appointment is particularly bad in a string of major urban areas.

If current trends continue, then in 2015:

  • Patients in London will be unable to see or speak to a GP or nurse on 10.4m occasions (up from 9.3m occasions in 2014)
  • Patients in Birmingham and the Black Country will be unable to see or speak to a GP or nurse on 3.2m occasions (up from 2.9m in 2014)
  • Patients in Greater Manchester, will be unable to see or speak to a GP or nurse on 3.1m occasions (up from 2.8m in 2014)
  • Patients in West Yorkshire – which includes Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield – will be unable to see or speak to a GP or nurse on 2.3m occasions (up from 2.2m in 2013/14)
  • Patients in Merseyside will be unable to see or speak to a GP or nurse on 1.5m occasions (up from 1.3m in 14).

The new figures confirm the dire impact of the falling level of investment in general practice, with family doctors and practice nurses now conducting 90% of patient contacts for just 8.5% of the NHS budget in England.

Surgeries are struggling to meet rising demand for appointments due to a deficit in the number of GPs, with the College estimating that 8,000 more family doctors are now needed in England to cope with the nation’s growing and ageing population – with increasing numbers of patients requiring more medical care due to their multiple long-term conditions.

The total number of consultation in general practice is predicted to increase from 372.5m this year to 384.3m in 2015/16, according to recent research conducted by Deloitte.

RCGP Honorary Treasurer, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “The fact that patients in England will be unable to see their GP when they want to on more than 50m occasions in 2015 is a truly shocking indictment of the crisis that is enveloping general practice.

“No GP wants to turn away a single patient – but surgeries are being faced with no choice because they don’t have the resources to cope with the increasing number of older people who need complex care, whilst also meeting the needs of families and people of working age.

“The profession has been brought to its knees both by a chronic slump in investment and the fact that there are now simply not enough family doctors to go around.

“Whilst some of these patients will try calling the practice another time to get an appointment, this isn’t good enough – many will either ending up in hospital or, worse still, will not seek medical treatment at all.

“The Government must urgently move to increase investment in general practice to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 – and recruit 8,000 family doctors.”

The RCGP research is based on an analysis of the GP Patient Survey, issued earlier this month.

Further Information

RCGP Press office - 020 3188 7574/7575
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 49,000 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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