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RCGP: ‘Millions unable to get appointments’

2 June 2014

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Millions of patients across England are facing a postcode lottery when trying to book an appointment with their local GP, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned.

Up to four times as many people are reporting that they cannot get an appointment at their local surgery in places where access to a GP is worst, compared to the best performing areas.

People living in areas with the lowest number of full time equivalent (FTE) GPs per 100,000 patients are most likely to say that they cannot get an appointment when they need one, an RCGP analysis has shown. 

Based on the GP Patient Survey, the analysis highlights that patients experiencing the most difficulty in getting to see a GP tend to live in the most deprived areas. Eight of out of ten areas with the longest waiting times for a GP appointment had moderate to high levels of deprivation

The College claims that without increased funding, the situation for patients will worsen, leaving GPs unable to deliver the level of care which patients need and deserve.

Dr Maureen Baker (pictured), chair of the RCGP said: “Every single patient should be able to see their GP when they are in need of medical assistance, regardless of where they live. It is absolutely shocking that, due to the current funding crisis in general practice, patients are now facing a postcode lottery. It is doubly unacceptable that those patients affected tend to be those who live in deprived parts of the country.

“Family doctors are working harder than ever – but with increasing patient demand, due to a growing and ageing population, and plummeting investment, there simply aren’t enough GPs to go round. There is now a desperate shortage of GPs in many parts of the country, leaving the service teetering on the brink of collapse. To ensure patients across England can get the level of service they deserve we urgently need to recruit at least 10,000 more GPs. This increase would have to be underpinned by an increase in funding of general practice to 11% of the total NHS budget.”

The RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP.) have launched a campaign called Put patients first: Back general practice, which is calling on the four governments of the UK to ensure that general practice is given 11% of the NHS budget by 2017.

Dr Patricia Wilkie, president and chair of NAPP said: “Patients across the country are frequently unable to obtain a timely appointment with a GP, because there simply aren’t enough GPs in some local areas.

“This postcode lottery is totally inappropriate with clear and potentially serious implications for patients. It is clear that the root of the problem is a shortage of GPs and the lack of funding for general practice. Without appropriate funding for general practice the situation for patients will only deteriorate.”