Doctors in Unite (DiU) has joined the call for further investment in general practice, after the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) urged a £2.5bn cash injection on top of the extra NHS funding the government has already promised.
Under plans now in place, general practice will receive £12bn of the NHS budget by 2020-21, but GPs are calling for this figured to be raised to £14.5bn to keep up with the rising demand for GP services from an ageing population with more chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
The GP Forward View, a policy document published in 2016 that set out future goals for general practice pledged to increase the proportion of NHS spending on GP services to at least 10 per cent by 2021. But at the current rate of spending, money allocated to general practice will make up only 8.9 per cent of the overall budget in three years’ time.
Extra investment becomes all the more urgent after the government is set to miss targets for the number of new GPs by a wide mark — 1,000 GPs have left the NHS since former health secretary Jeremy Hunt set a target in 2015 of recruiting 5,000 more GPs by 2020.
In a wide-ranging survey of GPs, the British Medical Association (BMA) found that a third of all GPs are planning on retiring within the next five years because of excessive workloads. Another third reported that they are planning on going part-time.
And while the RCGP this week hailed the record number of trainee GPs, a worrying poll last year found that trainee GPs – like their counterparts planning on retiring early – are turning away from working in the NHS because of work/life balance issues. A third said they did not see themselves working for the NHS in general practice after five years.
“The vital importance of general practice must be recognised as decision-makers draw up plans as to how to spend the new money that the prime minister has promised the NHS,” said RCGP chair Helen Stokes-Lampard.
“We believe that at least £14.5bn is necessary – an extra £2.5bn a year on top of what has been promised. Only then will we be able to continue to guarantee the safe care our patients need and deserve, close to home where they want it most, away from hospitals where care is more expensive.”
Doctors in Unite chair Dr David Wrigley, a GP in Lancashire, welcomed the RCGP’s call for an extra £2.5bn in funding for general practice, but warned that “this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is needed to restore years of government underfunding due to ill judged austerity.”
He said that family doctors were at the end of their tether and more investment in general practice was needed urgently.
“It is no exaggeration to say general practice is at breaking point,” Dr Wrigley noted. “Workloads are beyond unmanageable amid a recruitment and retention crisis that shows no sign of abating. Surgeries are closing across England due to government underfunding and mismanagement. You cannot simply magic up thousands more GPs.
“The profession needs to become an attractive one once again – the only way to accomplish this is to address issues such as rising demand, slashed resources and chronic staff shortages. And the best way we can start to address these challenges is through proper investment to the front line into surgeries.