Primary care is the ‘greatest area of concern’ in the health and care system, NHS leaders have warned, as the hospital waiting list has hit a record high.
It also comes as official data has today revealed that ambulance response times have risen to triple the 18-minute target.
The NHS Confederation today announced that almost half (48%) of NHS leaders say primary care is the area of ‘greatest concern’ for them.
It surveyed 451 NHS leaders this week, including 220 leading members of PCNs and GP federations, on the NHS’s priorities in the coming winter.
The second greatest area of concern was urgent and emergency care, which 22% of respondents ranked top.
One primary care leader who responded to the survey said the NHS collectively is under a pressure ‘never before witnessed by this generation of clinicians’.
They said: ‘The gatekeepers of this demand are general practice and unless this primary care crisis is addressed, the rest of the system will be destined to fail.’
The poll also found nearly nine in 10 (88%) NHS leaders feel the demands on their organisation are unsustainable.
And almost the same number (87%) said a lack of staff in the NHS as a whole is putting patient safety and care at risk.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said: ‘NHS leaders are clear that we have reached a tipping point. Front line providers across all parts of the NHS are under intolerable pressure and we know this is going to get worse over the winter unless we take action now.’
A report on the findings, published today, added: ‘[I]t is clear that something needs to be done differently. Even the additional funding announced recently has come too late to provide much needed extra capacity to avoid health services becoming unsafe.
‘Being able to free up capacity to tackle the huge backlog of care for people whose care was cancelled during the pandemic feels like a distant ambition.’
It comes as the latest figures from NHS England, published today, show the hospital waiting list is continuing to grow, with a record 5.8 million patients waiting to begin treatment at the end of September 2021.
The number of people waiting more than a year for treatment has also doubled in 12 months, rising from 139,545 in September 2020 to 300,566 in September 2021.
In October 2021, the average ambulance response time in England for a category 2 call was 53 minutes 54 seconds.
This is an increase of over 8 minutes since September, when the response time was 45 minutes 30 seconds.
According to a statistical note on the data, October response times for all four categories were ‘the longest since the categories were introduced in 2017’.
Earlier this month, a GP at another Bristol practice waited five hours for an ambulance before taking a child patient to hospital herself, and a GP practice in Norfolk is looking to double the amount of oxygen it stores on-site due to ambulance delays.
It follows health secretary Sajid Javid saying last week that a lack of GP appointments is to blame for increased pressure on A&E departments.