Patients need more GPs, wherever they live, says College

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs,  responds to a study in today’s BJGP exploring the link between GP shortages and patient health.

Professor Hawthorne said: "This timely study highlights factors that frontline GPs have witnessed for years: continuity of care is closely linked to patient health, and areas with higher deprivation generally have lower life expectancy. Increasing poverty also has a part to play and as the cost of living crisis bites, the poorest in our communities and those in most need of care find it hardest to receive it.

"We know that continuity of care is beneficial and highly valued by our patients, particularly those with complex health needs. It allows us to build trusting relationships with our patients and gain a greater holistic picture of their overall health. But we simply don’t have enough GPs to deliver the care that all patients deserve, and the impact of this is much more acute in more deprived areas. 

 "The average number of patients per fully qualified GP is now 2,298, meaning each GP is, on average, responsible for 264 more patients than they were six years ago. This is a national problem, but this crisis is particularly pronounced in the poorest communities where practices have on average 14.4% more patients per fully qualified GP than practices in more affluent areas, and they receive 7% less funding to cope with the additional needs of their local populations. This of course has a knock-on impact on patients’ ability to get the timely, safe and appropriate care they need.

"This situation is only going to intensify as our population ages too, and general practice is not sufficiently funded or staffed to deal with the added pressures. We've seen remarkable advances in medicine that have meant patients are living for longer, but there are still serious disparities when it comes to life expectancy. Many people continue to live longer, but these added years are not necessarily lived in good health and many patients face multiple, chronic conditions later in life that require regular and continuous treatment. 

"We need to ensure GPs and our teams can deliver the continuous care our patients need now, and in the future, by guaranteeing that we’re properly resourced and funded. Our recent manifesto outlines seven solutions, including tackling health inequality - that all major political parties can adopt to help improve patient access to safe and timely care and ensure that there are enough GPs to not only safeguard the future of general practice for our patients, but also the entire NHS.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 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.