General practice in the UK is teetering on the brink of collapse and it is patients who are bearing the brunt. Family doctors are now conducting more than one million consultations every day, yet our analysis of the GP Patient Survey shows that next year on more than 51 million occasions patients in England will fail to get an appointment with a GP at all. If practices close the situation will get far worse, with many patients left with no access to a family doctor in their community.
General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, with local practices providing essential care that patients want, need and deserve, close to home. We conduct 90% of NHS patient contacts for just 8.39% of the overall NHS budget. With investment in general practice falling year on year, it is increasingly likely that some practices may find themselves at risk of closure – with disastrous consequences for local communities.
The Government must urgently increase funding of general practice to 11% of the NHS budget, and guarantee that not a single practice will close a result of funding cuts, so that GPs can continue to provide safe patient care for communities across the UK.
It is because of the enormity of the crisis facing general practice that the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has launched the Put patients first: Back general practice campaign and is urging patients across the country to sign our petition, available at thousands of surgeries across the country, calling for resources to be shifted into general practice.
We are delighted that Pulse is joining us in highlighting the crisis facing general practice by launching the Stop Practice Closures campaign, focusing on one of the many very real current threats to patient care. We look forward to working with Pulse to ensure that general practice receives the resources it needs in order to ensure that decent patient care can continue to be delivered by family doctors in every community across the country.
Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard is honorary treasurer of the RCGP. The RCGP’s Put patients first microsite can be found here