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.’