GPs urge patients to oppose cuts
GP bosses are mounting a hard-hitting poster campaign and calling on patients to back demands for the Government to reverse swingeing funding cuts for general practice which they say have left services struggling to survive.
The poster - showing long queues of people outside a GP practice in an echo of the Tories' "Labour Isn't Working" poster during the 1979 election - will be sent to every surgery in the UK over the next week for doctors to put up in their waiting rooms.
Hundreds of thousands of patients will be asked to sign a petition calling for the Government to save general practice.
The campaign is being driven by the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), which warns that increasing workloads and cuts to funding mean the risk to patient care has "never been greater".
The RCGP says that over the last decade the number of patient consultations has soared to an all-time high while funding for general practice has dropped to a historic low.
More than 90% of NHS patient contacts take place within general practice and GP teams are seeing 40 million more patients a year than they were five years ago, the RCGP said, yet funding has plummeted to 8.39% of the total NHS budget.
The RCGP warned that 34 million requests for consultations with a family doctor will not be met this year because of growing demand and declining resources, according to its analysis of the independent GP Patient survey.
Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the RCGP, warned that patients are having to wait ever longer for appointments, which would lead to some going to hospital for treatment or not seeking help at all.
She said: "General practice across the UK is on the edge, with GP workloads ballooning, funding for general practice plummeting and up to 100 practices at risk of closure in the next year.
"The overwhelming majority of GPs - some of whom conduct up to 60 patient consultations a day - are now so busy that they fear they may miss something serious in one of their patients.
"The risk to safe patient care has never been greater - and it is because GPs are so concerned about the standard of care they can deliver that we hope patients across the country will sign our petition calling on the four governments of the UK to give general practice the investment it desperately needs.
"Never before has the college felt it necessary to ask patients to sign a petition or to send each practice such a hard-hitting poster for their waiting rooms, but general practice is now under greater pressure than ever before.
"More than one million patient consultations are carried out by family doctors every day and demand for GP services is growing year-on-year, with a population that is getting bigger and growing older, with more and more people suffering from multiple conditions."
Earlier this week a leading GP warned that general practice in Britain is facing "unprecedented challenges", and called for an end to 10-minute appointments for patients.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) general practice committee, said there is "chronic underfunding and unsustainable pressures on UK general practice" and warned of a crisis in workload, workforce, premises and morale.
And a group of doctors told the BMA's local medical committees conference that family GPs should start charging some patients for certain services.
The petition and poster mark the next phase of the RCGP and NAPP campaign, Put Patients First: Back General Practice, which calls for an increase in funding to 11% by 2017, and Dr Baker said this increase is vital to save general practice from "disintegration".
Funding for general practice could fall by a further 17% over the next three years to just 7.3% of the NHS budget, according to consultancy Deloitte, which the RCGP warned would have disastrous consequences for patient care.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "We've taken tough decisions to protect the NHS budget so we can strengthen family doctoring, reform out-of-hospital care and improve GP access for 7.5 million people.
"But we know GPs are under pressure, so we're cutting targets by more than a third to free up more time for patients, increasing trainees who become GPs from 40% to 50% so GP numbers continue to grow faster than the population and are training 10,000 more primary and community health and care staff by 2020."