General practice funding could fall by 17% in real terms over the next three years, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has claimed.
New research published by RCGP shows that patient consultations are due to rise by 69 million by 2017/18 while funding will fall to under 7% of the NHS budget.
The study, conducted by Deloitte, shows that although the number of consultations was around 304 million in 2008/09, this could rise to 409 million in 2017/18.
The RCGP argues this is because the population has increased in size, grown older, and more and more people have multiple-conditions.
The new Deloitte report into the future funding gap is due to be unveiled officially at an event in the House of Commons tomorrow.
In the report, Deloitte projects that funding for general practice will fall from £9.29bn of the current total NHS budget of £110.9bn to only £7.7bn, in today’s money, by 2017/18, a decline of 17.1%.
This means that in real terms, general practice will receive £1.59bn less in real terms by 2017/18 than it was in 2012/13.
The RCGP warns that the combined forces of rising demand and diminishing funding will have disastrous consequences for safe patient care.
Around 90% of contacts with patients in the NHS take place within general practice but the percentage share it has received from the four governments of the UK has been in decline for the best part of the last decade.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS and we cannot sit back and allow it to wither on the vine, as if it were to collapse the rest of the NHS would follow close behind.
“By investing properly in general practice, we could secure the future of the entire health service – and would be able to provide the majority of care in the community, therefore preventing unnecessary and expensive admissions to hospital.”
The college is asking for 11% of total NHS funding to be pumped into general practice by 2017/18 and has launched its first-ever campaign Put patients first: Back general practice, in conjunction with the National Association of Patient Participation (NAPP).
President and chair of the National Association for Patient Participation, Dr Patricia Wilkie said: “Patient care is now being compromised. Many of us are waiting a week or more for consultations and there is a critical need for better continuity of care, particularly for the frail elderly and those with complex needs.
“We believe that there needs to be increased investment in patients and GP care in order to improve and sustain the high standards of quality in patient care that patients need and GPs want to give.”