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RCGP: Millions unable to make GP appointments

29 July 2014

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Poor levels of investment could lead to patients being unable to get an appointment with their local GP or nurse on more than 51.3 million occasions. 

New research undertaken by the Royal College of Practitioners (RCGP) has revealed the number of occasions that patients had to wait more than week to see a GP or nurse will go above 50 million first the first time ever, compared with 41.9 million in 2013 and 46 million in 2014.

If this trend continues, the college is predicting a rise to 58.2 million instances by 2016.

RCGP honorary treasurer, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard believes these figures show the impact of a “chronic slump in investment”.

She said: “The fact that patients in England will be unable to see their GP when they want to on more than 50 million occasions in 2015 is a truly shocking indictment of the crisis that is enveloping general practice.

“No GP wants to turn away a single patient – but surgeries are being faced with no choice because they don’t have the resources to cope with the increasing number of older people who need complex care, whilst also meeting the needs of families and people of working age.”

A number of major urban areas have been highlighted as being the most problematic with regards to making appointments with patients.

Should this continue, by 2015 the projected number of occasions that patients will be unable to speak to a GP or nurse will be:

– 10.4 million in London compared with 9.3 million in 2014.

– 3.2 million in Birmingham and the Black Country, which is up from 2.9 million in 2014.

– 3.1 million in Greater Manchester in comparison to 2.8 million in 2014.

– 2.3 million in West Yorkshire (including Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield) which is up from 2.2 million.

– 1.5 million in Merseyside, whilst there were 1.3 million in 2014.

RCGP claims the figures from the report show the need to allocate funds to general practice, with family doctors and practice nurses conducting 90% of patient contact for just 8.5% of the NHS budget.

It is estimated that around 8,000 more doctors are now needed in England to handle the growing and ageing population.

Despite the large GP deficit, recent researched conducted by Deloitte has shown that number of consultations in general practice will increase from 372.5m in 2014/15 to 384.3m in 2015/16.

Stokes-Lampard said: “Whilst some of these patients will try calling the practice another time to get an appointment, this isn’t good enough – many will either ending up in hospital or, worse still, will not seek medical treatment at all.

“The government must urgently move to increase investment in general practice to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 – and recruit 8,000 family doctors.” 

The RCGP study comes from analysis of the GP Patient Survey issued in July 2014.