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General practice faces 'catastrophe' after 7% drop in funds since 2010, RCGP warns

General practice care in England faces a ‘catastrophe’ as GPs face a £400m ‘black hole’ in funding after three years of cuts, the RCGP has warned.

The latest figures - compiled by the college using data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre - show the amount spent in general practice per person in England dropped by 7% in real terms between 2010 and 2013, due to a combination of funding cuts and population growth.

In 2012/13 real-terms investment in general practice fell to £8,459 from £8,865 in 2009/10. The RCGP warned GPs face a £400 million gap in funding - almost the equivalent of the Government’s recent cash injection to take the pressure off A&E departments.

As RCGP members gather in Harrogate for the college’s annual conference, RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada said these figures should act as a warning to Government about the imminent ‘catastrophe’ general practice faces.

She said: ‘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.

‘For years politicians, health professionals and patients alike have been saying that we must shift the centre of gravity of the health service away from hospitals, with more care delivered to patients closer to home, and a greater focus on prevention. But these figures show that we are in fact moving in the opposite direction.’

She added that general practice was ‘heaving under the pressure’ or rising workload and lack of funding.

She said: ‘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.’

She called for 10% of the entire NHS budget and at least 10,000 more GPs in order to provide the care in the community the Government has said it wants.

The news comes as health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced pilots in nine areas in which GPs will offer appointments from 8am to 8pm and on weekends, and said GPs should co-ordinate 24 hour care for the frail and elderly and act as a named clinician for vulnerable patients. This would see a return to the ‘family doctor’, he said.

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the RCGP’s figures ‘make a mockery’ of the Government’s pledge to widen access to GPs.

He said: ‘The Prime Minister has spent all year trying to blame the 2004 GP contract for problems in primary care and A&E. But these figures tell the real story and expose David Cameron’s spin.’

Readers' comments (11)

  • Never have so many GPs in the area I used to work been retiring at the same time. April 2014 will see most of the local GPs in their mid 50's take VER and take voluntary erasure from the GMC Register.

    I beat them to it by 1 year. The RCGP has played a major part in this catastrophic loss of experienced practitioners by listening to politicians over the years and being deaf to the actual foot soldiers who did the work.

    Downsize pay off bills and take VER if you value your health and life.

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  • Funny - when you've cut £400m over a few years offering to put back in £50m for extending opening doesn't seem so generous.

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  • UK general practice is underfunded. But let's not rob Peter to pay Paul. Hospitals are also catastrophically underfunded, with record numbers heading for a deficit, which potentially means closure, and certainly means cutting corners to try and balance the books.
    It is the total health service budget that needs increasing, not diverting funds from A to B and back to A, whilst pretending all the time that its new money.

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  • Thank you Clare! At last it feels as if someone may be listening. It is too late for me as I leave in December, but lets hope it is possible to stop any further haemorrhage of experienced GPs.

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  • UK General practice is finished- at least it is in England. I left 3 years ago and I suggest as many of you who can do the same. The system will collape next year. I agree with the first post, I have never known so many of my colleagues actively planning to leave.

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  • It's taken her three years to realise this?

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  • Are hospitals underfunded or are too many simply financed inappropriately? I attended a meeting last week to be informed that over a certain number of patients, the hospital only gets paid 30% of what it costs to treat and the rest goes back to NHS England. How is this fair? Meanwhile, cheesed off that so much of money ringfenced for primary care is being used to bale out the local hospital.

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  • Is it not time to follow the dentists ? Take the funding cuts and discriminatory pension changes - can you not see a pattern ? When are we going to say enough, no more, it is not sweet as it was before?

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  • Claire, seeing 60 patients a day is not safe for patient or doctor. Sure thing. But, what is safe ? And, why do you or the RCGP not define what that number is?
    It is the easiest, simplest way to sort out the ever increasing demands, workloads, depression and burn out.

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  • Agree with 2.19, the net result of this is privatization so resources can be freed up and demand controlled. Shall we just get on with it now, please?

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