27m patients will wait a week or more to see GP in 2014, says RCGP


Around 27m patients in England will have to wait for a week or more to see their GP in 2014, as a result of a diversion of doctor posts from general practice to hospitals, says the RCGP.

New research published by the Royal College of General Practitioners showed that three extra hospital consultant posts are now being created for every one more GP across the country.

At the same time analysis of the latest GP Patient Survey indicates that the number of people in England waiting for a week or more to see or speak to their GP (excluding nurse appointments) reached 26.2m in the last year. The College says this is projected to rise to 27m.

The College says the only way to shift this trend is to increase the share of the NHS budget going to general practice from 8.39% now to 11% by 2017, starting with an increase of one percentage point of the NHS budget next year.

RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “It is vital to ensure that patients are able to access their local GP quickly and effectively – just as it is important for hospitals to have adequate numbers of qualified consultants to look after patients who are in need of acute health care.”

“If waiting times get longer, it will be more difficult for GPs to ensure that problems are caught early, and the pressure on A&E will intensify. This is bad news for patients and bad news for the whole of the NHS.”

Eleven years ago, there were 2,500 more full-time equivalent GPs than hospital doctors. However, if current trends continue, there are set to be 22,000 more full-time equivalent hospital consultants than family doctors by 2022.

According to the latest national GP Patient Survey, the proportion of patients in England who are having to wait a week or more for an appointment has risen to 15%, compared to 14% a year ago and 13% 18 months ago. The number of people waiting for a week or more to see or speak a GP or nurse at their practice reached 46.8m in the last year. This is projected to rise to 48.4m in 2014.

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 resources for general practice.

In response to the report, the RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation (N.A.P.P.) have launched a major campaign called ‘Put patients first: Back general practice’.