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Daily Mail highlights desperate GP shortage

RCGP warns again that desperate lack of GPs and underfunding is endangering patients

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Royal College of General Practitioners has said that the Daily Mail online story, about a practice where patients say they might wait up to four weeks for an appointment with a GP, shows just how desperate the need has become for more GPs and practice staff. The College has issued a fresh warning that there are just not enough new doctors joining general practice as others retire, and that proper funding for general practice is crucial for patients to see a GP when they need to.

The Daily Mail reported that each GP at the Crown Street Surgery in Swinton, near Rotherham, can see 100 patients a day – and a partner there said he regularly works 80-hour weeks. Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told the paper that he blamed the increasingly “untenable” workload in general practice for GPs leaving the profession, and for locums being unwilling to take on permanent posts. The paper claimed services at the practice were “at breaking point”, with what it thought was the country’s longest waiting list for non-urgent appointments.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker commented: “Our patients should be able to see a GP whenever they are in need of medical assistance and family doctors are working harder than ever to cope with increasing patient demand, due to a growing and ageing population.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a sad consequence of the desperate shortage of GPs across the country, with many practices finding it difficult to find replacements for those doctors that have retired, and not enough medical graduates entering general practice to replace them.”

Dr Kasaraneni added that, in any case, lack of funding would prevent the practice from taking on the two additional GPs and practice nurses that could significantly cut waiting times. He said it was “no wonder” that there had been a “huge influx of patients ending up in A&E”, when general practice’s share of the NHS budget has been so badly eroded.

His call for fairer funding was echoed by Dr Baker, who said: “Over 90% of all NHS patient contacts are managed in general practice but as patient demand has rocketed, funding for general practice has fallen to an all-time low of only 8.3% of the NHS budget. We are carrying out 150,000 more patient consultations per day than we were five years ago – yet the number of GPs has remained relatively stagnant.”

She pointed out that this huge increase in pressure meant it is essential for practices to have in place procedures to prioritise those patients with the most urgent needs – with the inevitable result that, sometimes, ‘non-urgent’ patients have to wait longer for an appointment. But she pointed out that this in itself could potentially endanger patients. She said: “In many cases, patients don’t know if something is seriously wrong until they have seen their GP and waiting a month for a GP appointment could be a risk to patient safety.”

She insisted: “We desperately need more GPs and practice staff – and more funding for general practice – so that we can ensure all our patients can see a GP when they need one. The College is calling for general practice to receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2017 and 10,000 more GPs across the UK by 2020, in order to make this possible.”

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