The Coalition Government has ‘neglected’ general practice and this is likely to have had ‘real consequences’ for patients, the influential King’s Fund think-tank has said.
The think-tank’s ‘The NHS under the coalition government’ report notes that patient satisfaction with general practice remains high and there has been a recent improvement in investment in primary care.
However, it concludes that the steady decline in patient experience and staff morale in general practice will make the next parliament ‘extremely challenging’.
It also found that the Government’s record in general practice has escaped measurement due to a lack of routinely collected data.
The pre-election report reviewed the current Government’s record on the NHS since coming to power in 2010.
It concluded: ‘The relative neglect of general practice… appears to have resulted in lower priority being given to primary care during this parliament as measured by the share of the budget allocated to it, although steps are now being taken to tackle this.’
The King’s Fund said that it was ‘not possible to quantify the impact on patients’, but added that the ‘consequences are likely to have been real’.
Under the Coalition, the number of GPs per 1,000 of population has decreased, it added.
It said: ‘Once population growth is taken into account, total staff per 1,000 population has reduced by around 2% as have the numbers of GPs (‒3%) and qualified nursing staff (‒2%).’
This is despite official figures released the same week heralding a 1.7% increase in full time equivalent GPs between September 2013 and 2014.
The report notes that the failure to increase GP numbers in line with population growth is even more severe when the increasing number of elderly patients is taken into account.