GPs face a £400m “black hole” as a result of cuts over the past three yearsBMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5998 (Published 03 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5998
General practice needs a cash injection to preserve services and keep patients safe after cuts of £400m (€476m; $648m) over the past three years, the Royal College of General Practitioners has said.
Figures compiled by the college show that the amount spent in general practice per person in England fell by 7% in real terms from £8865m in 2009-10 to £8459m in 2012-13, because of a combination of funding cuts and population growth.
Meanwhile hospitals have seen extra investment, with the government recently announcing an extra £500m for emergency departments in England over the next two years.
The figures, which were presented on the first day of the college’s annual national conference in Harrogate on 3 October, are drawn from annual data produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
They back up 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.
The RCGP’s chairwoman, Clare Gerada, told the conference that the cuts to general practice funding ran counter to the government’s objectives and advice from healthcare experts to shift care away from hospitals and into the community.
General practices needed 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,” she said.
Gerada added, “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.
“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.
“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.”
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5998
bmj.com Interview: Clare Gerada: “It’s like the wild west in healthcare” (BMJ 2013;347:f5911, doi:10.1136/bmj.f5911.