MORE than 34 million patients in England will this year fail to get an appointment with their GP, when seeking treatment, because of the slump in the funding of general practice over the last decade, and rapidly growing demand.
The huge number of patients who will fail to secure a consultation with a GP or a practice nurse this year comes despite the fact that general practice now sees 40 million more patients annually than was the case in 2008/09.
The startling prediction for the number of patients who will fail to secure an appointment is based on an analysis by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), of the latest GP Patient Survey, published in December, revealing that ten per cent of patients who sought a consultation with a GP or a practice nurse in 2012/13, failed to get one.
The RCGP says that the number of patients failing to see a GP at all will continue to increase – due to the ongoing cuts in funding for general practice, allied to rapidly growing demand, with general practice now seeing 340 million patients per year.
In 2005/06, 10.95 per cent of the NHS budget in England was spent on general practice.
However, by 2011/12, just 8.5 per cent of the NHS budget in England was spent on general practice – with a cumulative loss £9.1bn since 2004/05 in real terms.
Despite this, general practice has increased efficiency, to such an extent, that an estimated 40 million additional patients per year are being treated by family doctors and practice nurses than was the case in 2008/09.
The slump in funding, along with a growing and ageing population, where increasing numbers of patients have multiple conditions, has had a massive impact on the ability of general practice to cope with the huge upswing in demand.
The College estimates that the average number of consultations carried out by each GP in England per year has increased by 1,450 since 2008 from 9,264 to 10,714.
The College also believes that each GP practice in England dealt with 4,384 more consultations per year in 2011/12 compared to 2004/05.
Between 2008/09 and 2011/12, the total number of consultations in general practice – including visits to both GPs and practice nurses – is estimated to have risen from 300.4 million to 340 million.
The College’s assessment of how many patients will fail to secure an appointment this year is based on the figures contained in the latest GP Patient Survey, published in December. They survey asked patients whether they were able to get an appointment to see or speak to someone in general practice.
The responses showed an increase in the number of patients failing to secure an appointment at all from nine per cent of patients, in the version of the survey published in June 2012, to ten per cent in the latest report – equivalent to an increase of 3.4 million patients annually.