The UK family doctor service is widely admired around the world for its equitable, cost effective and leading edge provision of locally accessible high quality care and doctors remain our most trusted professionals. However, the environment in which GPs are striving to provide services in is increasingly challenging. An increased demand on general practice caused by demographic changes, more complex health needs, and some care moving out of hospitals is all contributing to unsustainable pressures on the service. These inter-related factors are having a worrying impact on how care is delivered to patients.
Issues within General Practice
NHS England estimates that some 340 million consultations are now undertaken every year, an increase of 40 million since 2008. The number of consultations in Scotland has also increased with NHS Scotland estimating that at least 24.2 million patient consultations are now undertaken every year, up by 1.6 million since 2006. Patients in some areas are not always able to get an appointment when they need one. In 2013 an estimated 26.2 million people waited over one week to see their GPs.
The needs of patients visiting the GP practice have also changed. For example in England 15 million people live with a chronic condition. More care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma, previously carried out in hospital settings is now increasingly being provided through GP services. NHS Wales estimates that Wales has the highest rates of long-term limiting illness in the UK.
GPs are also facing patient demand from an ageing population. In Northern Ireland, for example, the proportion of the population aged 75 and over is predicted to rise from 6.7% in 2012 to 9.2% in 2024.
Your GP cares
That is why the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee has launched a new campaign, ‘Your GP Cares’ to highlight some of the pressing issues facing general practice. Your GP and practice team care about the current situation and want to work with patients and government to find solutions and provide a better service. The BMA is calling for long term, sustainable investment in GP services now to:
- Attract, retain and expand the number of GPs
- Expand the number of practice staff
- Improve the premises that GP services are provided from
Over the coming Months, we will be encouraging debate so that politicians and policy makers understand the urgent need for long term, sustainable investment in GP services for today and tomorrow.
- Sign our Your GP Cares Petition
- Tell @BMA on Twitter why you care about your GP practice #YourGPcares
- View our Your GP Cares Homepage-cares
Put Patient First Campaign
Despite carrying out 90% of all NHS patient contacts, general practice only receives 8.39% of the NHS budget in the UK — an historic low. By 2017, this is projected to plunge to just 7.29%. As a result, general practice is facing a growing crisis.
Due to the sheer volume of GP workloads, in this year alone, patients will have to wait longer than a week to see their GP on at least 27m occasions. And, according to a poll carried out in March, more than three fifths of the public now believe that the number of patient consultations carried out by GPs — up to 60 per day — is threatening the level of patient care.
To protect high quality services for all patients, I call on the Prime Minister to increase the share of the NHS budget spent on general practice in England to 11% by 2017.
This shift in funding would enable general practice to deliver:
- Shorter waiting times for appointments and more flexible opening hours.
- Longer consultations, especially for people with long term conditions
- More opportunity for patients to see a GP who knows them
- Better care co-ordination and planning, especially for the elderly and those with complex needs.
- Positive benefits for the NHS as a whole, reducing pressure on hospitals
GP surgeries sit at the heart of local communities. I demand that the Government acts now to ensure practices have the resources they need to continue to provide the high quality care patients deserve.