GP leaders in the UK are calling on the incoming government for extra funds to ensure that continuity of care is not interrupted in the bid to increase access to general practice.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is warning that cutting back appointment times must not come at the expense of other GP services, including the long-term care of patients with multiple or long-term conditions.
“Improving access to GP services for patients must be a priority for any incoming government but it cannot be used as a trade-off,” said RCGP chair Maureen Baker, and also called for evidence-based solutions to address the problem.
“Given the number and range of ideas currently being tested out in general practice in this area, it is vital that projects are properly evaluated, and evidence is gathered and published on what has been shown to work in some areas and what has not”, she stressed.
In its new report Patient access to general practice: ideas and challenges from the front line, the College concludes that increasing GP access can only be achieved with more cash and significantly more doctors.
Surging demand, dwindling funds
The report follows recent analysis showing that, on an estimated 67 million occasions in 2015, patients in England will have to wait for a week or more to see a GP or practice nurse, because of a lack of investment in general practice and rapidly growing demand.
But, as patient demand has rocketed - 150,000 more consultations are now undertaken daily compared with five years ago - GP funds have sunk to an all-time low of just 8.3% of the NHS budget, and the college is currently running a campaign to boost this share to 11% by 2017, with an additional 8,000 GPs in England by 2020.
In January, NHS Engand pledged an extra £10 million to expand the general practice workforce in England.