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New RCGP chair launches campaign to boost general practice funding

The new RCGP chair has launched a campaign urging the Government to boost the proportion of total NHS spending general practice receives to 11% by 2017, as latest figures show funding has slumped to all-time low.

Dr Maureen Baker, who took over from Professor Clare Gerada at council on Saturday, said the proportion of the total NHS budget general practice receives is now even lower than previously estimated, at 8.4% – the lowest ever recorded.

A report published by the college and the National Association for Patient Participation showed the figure has fallen nearly 2% since 2004/2005, when it was 10.4%.

The RCGP said falling investment has caused GPs to fear about the standard of care they can provide, with two recent surveys showing 70% of GPs fear waiting times will get worse over the next two years, while 80% say they can no longer provide ‘high-level’ patient care and 47% have had to withdraw services.

Giving general practice 11% of the budget would protect patients from further cuts and enable GPs to deliver shorter waiting times, more flexible opening hours and more online services, as well as longer consultations, better continuity of care and better co-ordination of care for the frail elderly and those with complex care needs, the report stated.

Dr Baker said the current trend runs contrary to the Government’s stated aims on moving care in the community and must be reversed.

She added: ‘On the one hand, the people who run the NHS across the UK say they want more people to be cared for in the community. On the other, resources have relentlessly drifted away from community-based health services towards more expensive hospital-based care.’

‘The flow of funding away from general practice has been contrary to the rhetoric and has happened in the absence of any overall strategy as to how we spend the NHS budget.’

She added: ‘The share of the NHS budget spent on general practice has slumped to the lowest point on record. The various NHS bodies and governments who decide how we divide the NHS funding cake in the UK have inadvertently allowed a situation to develop in which funding for general practice is being steadily eroded.  With services now at breaking point, it’s time to come up with a plan to turn the tide.’

‘We need to increase our investment in general practice as a matter of urgency, so that we can take the pressure off our hospitals, where medical provision is more expensive, and ensure that more people can receive care where they say they want it - in the community.’