62% of the UK public believe that the volume of patient consultations now being carried out by GPs each day presents a threat to the level of patient care that they can provide, according to a new opinion poll.

GPs are now estimated to be conducting 40-60 consultations a day, says the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), which commissioned the survey.

28% of people also told the survey that the last time they tried to book an appointment with their GP, for themselves or a family member, they could not get an appointment in the same week, while 40% said they were concerned that the amount of time they have to wait for an appointment to see their GP could have an impact on their health.

And 85% of people polled said that if they had a serious long-term illness they would rather be cared for at home, if they received proper medical support.

“General practice as we know it is now under severe threat of extinction. It is imploding faster than people realise and patients are already bearing the brunt of the problem,” said Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP.

This situation will only get worse unless urgent action is taken to redress “the huge and historic” imbalance in funding, she added, and warned: “we can no longer guarantee a future for general practice as our patients, know it, rely on it and love it.”

GPs are doing all they can, but they are being “seriously crippled by a toxic mix of increasing workloads and ever-dwindling budgets,” and this is leaving patients "waiting too long for an appointment and not receiving the time or attention they need and that GPs want to give them,” said Dr Baker, who urged the four UK governments to “wake up to the critical state that general practice is now in.”

“We need proper provision in the 2014-15 budget rounds right across the UK so that GPs can give their patients the care they need. If this doesn’t happen, we have grave concerns for the sustainability of the NHS,” she warned.

Initiatives such as the Better Care Fund in England are an important first step in tackling the general practice funding gap and equipping GPs with the resources they need to improve care for the frail elderly, said Dr Baker but, she added: “we need to go further and faster.”