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Don’t ignore explosion in pressure on GPs as A&E problems mount

‘Ludicrous’ to blame decade-old GP contract for current problems in A&E, says RCGP

Louise Prime

Thursday, 08 January 2015

The pressures that accident and emergency departments are currently facing mustn’t be allowed to detract attention – or funding – from the problems caused by the explosion in demand for general practice, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned. College chair Dr Maureen Baker has called for an end to the ‘ludicrous’ practice of blaming the ‘new’ GP contract, now more than a decade old, for the A&E crisis, as well as the wide range of woes that the whole of the NHS is experiencing.

Dr Baker pointed out that seasonal variation in demand has a detrimental effect on general practice, not just on A&E. She said: “Everyone is talking about the crisis in Emergency Departments but the explosion in demand for general practice is being ignored.

“GPs and their teams have been incredibly busy over the holiday season providing urgent and emergency care to patients when they have needed it, in and out of hours – yet they continue to be vilified for increasing numbers of patients visiting A&E.”

She warned that the dramatic increase in pressure now being placed on general practice, and the decrease in its relative funding, simply can’t be ignored. She said: “We have a growing and ageing population and an increasing number of patients with complex needs and demand is exacerbated by the cold weather. GPs are now making 1.3m patient consultations everyday – 120,000 more than even five years ago – this is 90% of all NHS patient contacts, yet funding has not kept up with demand and the share of the NHS budget that general practice receives is at an all-time low."

Dr Baker was critical too of all the NHS’s problems being blamed on the GP contract. She said: “It is ludicrous to continue to blame a GP contract that is more than ten years old for the woes currently besetting the entire NHS.”

She went on to reiterate the College’s call for general practice to be allotted a fairer share of NHS resources to enable it to cope with the demands it faces. She warned: “We simply do not have enough resources or GPs to cope with the increasing demand with many GPs retiring and not enough medical students choosing general practice to take their place.

“Short-term ‘sticking-plaster’ solutions to bail out A&E are all well and good but we really need is long-term investment in general practice so we can create more appointments and care for our patients most cost effectively in the community – and so that we don’t have similar situations next winter, and every winter to come.”

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