A warning has been issued by a leader of Britain’s family doctors, Dr Maureen Baker, that the service may become extinct as doctors are unable to cope with the increase in demand for care. GP practice patients are having to endure long delays in obtaining appointments and a shorter consultation time with their doctor.
Dr Baker claims that the allocation of a smaller share of the NHS budget to general practitioners was foolish as these practices are the ones preventing the collapse of the NHS as they offer relief to hospital staff.
General practitioners have been the foundation of the NHS for decades and have been able to provide patients with excellent care, but this service is at risk of being lost.
Surgeries bear responsibility for around 90% of overall patient contact, however, general practice is only allocated about 8.39% of the overall NHS UK budget. This share of the budget has been in decline since 2003-2004, whilst the share to hospitals has been increasing. This comes despite the agreement between ministers and leaders at the NHS that more hospital services should be offered to patients elsewhere.
Dr Baker has urged the governments across the United Kingdom to ensure that GP surgeries will be allocated more money in the budget. She stated that if this does not take place, patients will not be able to get the care they need and the sustainability of the NHS will be at risk.
A recent ComRes poll involving 1,007 adults indicated that 62% of Britons believed that the number of consultations completed by GPs on a daily basis is putting the standard of care offered to patients under threat. Around 70% of patients managed to obtain an appointment within the same 7-day period the last time they tried, but about 28% were unable to. The biggest concern was that 40% of the patients were worried about the effect these long waiting times would ultimately have on the state of their health.
The Department of Health decline a direct response to Dr Baker’s warning. They have stated that the reason for cutting the targets for GPs was to free up more of their time to be spent with their patients.
Image credit: Susan Sermoneta