Funding for general practice in the UK is on track to slide 17% in real terms by 2017/18, warns a new report by Deloitte commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
This shortfall in funding alone is enough to raise concerns over the potential detriment to patients, but the fact that consultations are also set to rise by 69 million over the timeframe has led the RCGP to warn of "disastrous consequences for safe patient care".
According to Deloitte, funding for general practice will fall from £9.29 billion of the current total NHS budget of £110.9 billion to only £7.7 billion, which means that, in real terms, GPs will receive £1.59 billion less in real terms by 2017/18 than in 2012/13.
It predicts that general practice in England could receive just 7.28% of the NHS budget by 2017/18, down from 8.5%, while that in Scotland could receive just 7.4%, down from 7.78%, and Wales could receive just 7.52%, down from 7.77%.
This decline, the RCGP says, is particularly worrying given that around 90% of contacts with patients in the NHS take place within general practice, and yet its handout has been thinning for the much of the last decade.
As a bare minimum, the sector needs £11.47 billion - or 9.81% - out of a projected NHS budget of £116.86 billion by 2017/18 to merely "stand still", going by Deloitte estimates, but the College is demanding an 11% share of total NHS funding in order to avert a crisis in care.
The projections, warns RCGP chair Maureen Baker, "show just how grim the future looks for the care of our patients in general practice, across the UK".
"The current approach to the way we fund general practice makes no economic sense at all - as investment is being cut at the very point that demand is soaring," she added, and stressed that adequate investment "could secure the future of the entire health service - and would be able to provide the majority of care in the community, therefore preventing unnecessary and expensive admissions to hospital."
Last week findings of an opinion poll showed that 62% of the UK public believe that the volume of patient consultations now being carried out by GPs - 40-60 a day - presents a threat to the level of patient care that they can provide.