General practice could become “a ticking time bomb” if the Government does not allocate more funding for general practice and make it a more appealing profession, Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said.
He was speaking after a Halifax surgery wrote to its 10,000 patients claiming the demand on services has made the surgery unsafe - forcing them to implement changes.
The Keighley Road Surgery in Illingworth, wrote in the letter that GP practices across England are at “breaking point”, dealing with 90 per cent of patient contacts but with only get eight per cent of NHS funding.
GPs at the practice are working more than full time hours, dealing with “unsustainable” numbers of patients, it said. Only cases that are deemed medically urgent will be put on the call-back list for a same day appointment.
Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, said the “staggering” letter had left people, many of them elderly and vulnerable, “very upset and confused.”
“It is not how local GP practices should be operating,” she said. “It is a very cold and clinical way to make appointments. It’s a sad day for local health services when GP surgeries are having to resort to such a system, which seems to put the needs of the surgery first and those of patients second.”
Gordon Wilkinson, a patient at the surgery for 35 years, said: “My previous doctor here said it was getting ridiculous because they had so many patients and it was difficult to see everyone who needed to be treated.”
Dr Vautrey said the case represented a “symptom of a much wider issue” that is affecting practices all over the country.
“Funding has fallen, in real terms, but at the same time practices are trying to deal with more patients with more complicated needs – and it is just not sustainable.
“Practices cannot cope and they will be forced to close, which creates a very dangerous domino effect.”
Dr Vautrey said that because of the notoriously long hours, stress, and high workload associated with becoming a GP – many medical graduates were not joining the profession, which in turn is adding to the problem.
He said: “The government must allocate more funding to GPs and it must make the profession more appealing to young people, or else it could become a ticking time bomb.”
NHS England said they recognise that patients are less satisfied when it comes to accessing their GP, compared to last year. But it said that changes have been made to the GPs contracts and, as well as using new technology, it hopes to improve the services.
Head of Primary Care Commissioning, David Geddes said GPs and practice staff are “absolutely vital” to high quality local health services and it is working with Health Education England to increase the number of GPs.