Patients to wait more than one week to see GP on 100m occasions by 2020 - endangering the health of thousands of patients

Publication date: 23 July 2016

Patients will have to wait to see their GP on almost 100m occasions by 2020/21, endangering the health of thousands of patients, if the Government fails to implement promises, signed off by David Cameron, to increase support for general practice.

The new analysis published today by the Royal College of GPs show that, if recent trends continue, the number of occasions when patients will have to wait longer than a week to see their GP will increase by more than 28m occasions from 2015/16, when patients had to wait to see a GP on just over 69m occasions, to 98m in 2020/21.
 
The analysis also indicates that by 2020/21 waiting times will be so bad that patients will be unable to get an appointment with their GP at all on 52m occasions.
 
In response, the College is calling for government promises of increased investment and an expansion in general practice staff numbers, outlined in NHS England’s GP Forward View, to be implemented as a matter of urgency in order to avoid this and ensure patient safety.
 
RCGP analysis also reveals that on 9.4m occasions last year, patients didn’t seek healthcare elsewhere having been unable to secure an appointment to see their GP. 
 
If this situation does not improve, patients will fail to secure any healthcare at all, having been unable to see their GP for their condition, on a total of 46.8m occasions between now and the end of 2020/21.
 
The RCGP believes these shocking figures pose a grave risk to the health of thousands of patients across the country.
 
The College is now calling on new Prime Minister Theresa May, new Chancellor Philip Hammond, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to urgently follow through with the promises made in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, published in April, which was signed off by former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne.
 
Under the plans outlined, general practice is set to receive £2.4bn of additional investment on an annual basis by 2020, and a half billion pound package of emergency measures to help distressed practices and stressed GPs, amongst other things. A promise has also been made to expand the workforce by 5,000 additional doctors and 5,000 other members of the general practice team.
 
GPs and their teams currently conduct 90% of all NHS patient contacts for little over 8% of the overall NHS budget in England.
 
With the population ageing and growing in size, patient demand is rapidly rising. As a result, general practice is now delivering more patient consultations a year than ever before. But investment in the service has declined considerably over the last decade, leaving many GPs with ballooning workloads, and less capacity to see all their patients at the time that they need help.
 
While many GPs were relieved by the publication of the General Practice Forward View, there is now concern across the profession that with the change in government, and the impact on the economy of Brexit, that some of the promises made in the General Practice Forward View may be at risk. The College believes that this would be a travesty, given that it appears that so many voters in the EU referendum were swayed by concerns about the NHS and particularly worsening GP waiting times.
 
RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “The fact that, if current trends continue, patients will have to wait to see their GP for more than a week on almost 100m occasions by 2020 is shocking - and poses a clear risk to the health of thousands of patients.
 
"The fact that, on the current trajectory, patients will not be able to secure an appointment to see a GP at all on 60m occasions is frankly flabbergasting.
 
"All the evidence shows that general practice is in crisis, and that crisis is worsening.
 
"However, having recognised the scale of the meltdown, the government, under David Cameron, announced plans to save general practice and help pay for a service that could consistently meet the needs of our patients.
 
"We now need a guarantee from the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and the Health Secretary that the NHS England General Practice Forward View will be delivered in full.  This is an especially pressing issue given that so many voters in the EU referendum were swayed in their opinion by concerns about the NHS and particularly by worsening GP waiting times."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
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 52,000 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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