Patients will have to wait to see their GP on almost 100m occasions by 2020/21, according to new analysis from the Royal College of General Practice (RCGP).
The data shows that if recent trends continue, the number of times when patients will have to wait longer than a week to see their GP will increase to 98 million in 2020/21 from 69 million in 2015/16.
The analysis also indicates that by 2020/21 waiting times will be so bad that patients will be unable to get an appointment with their GP at all on 52 million occasions.
In response, the RCGP is calling for government promises of increased investment and an expansion in general practice staff numbers, outlined in NHS England’s GP Forward View, to be implemented as a matter of urgency in order to avoid this and ensure patient safety.
RCGP analysis also revealed that on 9.4 million occasions last year, having been unable to secure a GP appointment, patients did not seek healthcare elsewhere.
If this situation does not improve, patients will fail to secure any healthcare at all, having been unable to see their GP for their condition, on a total of 46.8m occasions between now and the end of 2020/21.
The RCGP has said figures pose a “grave risk” to the health of thousands of patients across the country.
The college is now calling on Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond, and Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, to urgently follow through with the promises made in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, published in April.
Under the plans outlined, general practice is set to receive £2.4bn of additional investment on an annual basis by 2020, and a half billion pound package of emergency measures to help distressed practices and stressed GPs.
The Government has also promised to expand the workforce by 5,000 additional doctors and 5,000 other members of the general practice team.
GPs and their teams currently conduct 90% of all NHS patient contacts for little over 8% of the overall NHS budget in England.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “The fact that, if current trends continue, patients will have to wait to see their GP for more than a week on almost 100m occasions by 2020 is shocking – and poses a clear risk to the health of thousands of patients.
“The fact that, on the current trajectory, patients will not be able to secure an appointment to see a GP at all on 60m occasions is frankly flabbergasting.
“All the evidence shows that general practice is in crisis, and that crisis is worsening.
“However, having recognised the scale of the meltdown, the government, under David Cameron, announced plans to save general practice and help pay for a service that could consistently meet the needs of our patients.
“We now need a guarantee from the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and the Health Secretary that the NHS England General Practice Forward View will be delivered in full. This is an especially pressing issue given that so many voters in the EU referendum were swayed in their opinion by concerns about the NHS and particularly by worsening GP waiting times”.
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