The RCGP and the Patients Association have asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt for an urgent meeting to highlight the ‘burgeoning pressures’ on general practice and the knock-on effect on patients.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of RCGP Council, said in a co-written letter to Mr Hunt that surgeries require urgent investment – including more doctors – to head off the potentially ‘catastrophic’ impact on both primary and secondary care.
GPs are providing care to an ageing population – many with one or more long term conditions – and they need longer consultation times with patients, the letter said.
About two third of patients surveyed by the Patients Association said they cannot schedule a GP appointment within 48 hours, said Dr Gerada. ‘GPs want to do more for their patients but are constrained in their ability to do so by unprecedented pressures they are now coming under.’
In focusing on problems in A&Es, the Government has lost sight of the ‘very real crisis’ in general practice, she added.
Dr Gerada highlighted a recent RCGP survey which showed that nearly of GPs said they could no longer guarantee safe care. ‘General practice is at the heart of the NHS and if it starts to buckle the whole of the health service starts to disintegrate.’