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Week-long waiting times to see a GP could rise sharply

Predicted 40% rise in numbers of patients waiting

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 25 July 2016

Numbers of patients who will have to wait more than one week to see their GP could rise by 40% over the next few years if the government fails to implement its promises to increase support for general practice, claims the RCGP.

The college released details of its analysis at the weekend which concluded that the number of occasions when patients will have to wait longer than a week to see their GP could increase from the 69 million occasions it happened in 2015-16 to 98 million in 2020-21.

The analysis was carried out into NHS England’s GP Patient survey published earlier this month.

For its analysis, the college looked at recent trends on waiting times and patients unable to get an appointment, and also concluded that if recent trends continued, by 2020-21, waiting times will be so bad that patients will be unable to get an appointment with their GP at all on 52 million occasions.

RCGP analysis also found that on 9.4 million occasions last year, patients did not seek healthcare elsewhere after being unable to secure an appointment to see their GP.

If this situation failed to improve, patients would fail to secure any healthcare at all, having been unable to see their GP for their condition, on a total of 46.8 million occasions between now and the end of 2020-21 – a situation that posed a serious risk to the health of many patients.

To avoid these scenarios and ensure patient safety, the college has called for government promises of increased investment and an expansion in general practice staff numbers, outlined in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, to be implemented as a matter of urgency by the new government.

Under the plans outlined, general practice is set to receive £2.4 billion 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.

The college said that although many GPs had been relieved by the publication of the forward view, there was now concern that the change in government and the impact on the economy of Brexit could mean that some of the promises made could be at risk.

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 100 million 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 60 million 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.”

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