The £10.2 billion funding ‘black hole’ could worsen waiting times for general practice this winter, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) claims.
Funding has drifted away from primary care towards hospitals over the past eight years, figures published by the RCGP show, meaning that general practice now receives £2.4 billion less per year.
The latest data shows that overall the British NHS budget grew by 18% in real terms, but funding for general practice fell by 8.3%.
The funding deficit is now £9 billion in England, £925 million in Scotland and £250 million in Wales.
In 2005/06, 10.7% (£9.5 billion) of the British NHS budget was spent on general practice, when the total NHS budget stood at £88.6bn, in 2012 money.
By 2011/12, this figure had declined by over two percentage points to 8.4% (£8.8 billion), when the total NHS budget stood at £104 billion, in 2012 money.
An opinion poll, conducted on behalf of the RCGP recently, showed that 71% of GPs expect waiting times to worsen over the next two years due to the decrease in funding.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “The drift of funding away from general practice to secondary care is a deep-seated and long-term trend which is starving general practice of the money it needs to deliver high levels of patient care.
“The vast majority of GPs think that the decline in funding for general practice will regretfully lead to longer waiting times for patients over the next two years. This lengthening of waiting times is a continuous process, and will inevitably worsen this winter as temperatures plummet.”