Government measures to train more family doctors may not see enough GPs recruited in time to meet rising demand and tackle long waits facing sick people trying to get appointments.
The warning has been made by MPs and leading medics after latest figures showed that almost one in five appointments booked at GP surgeries in the region see patients waiting two weeks or more to see a doctor.
While more than 40 per cent of appointments are given on the same day, and many patients choose to pre-book a slot with their doctor, figures from NHS Digital suggest patients in Yorkshire and Humber are among the hardest hit by delays.
Just over 19 per cent of appointments took 15 days or more to happen in the region in the six months to March this year, compared to 17.7 per cent nationally, an analysis of official figures suggests. Patients in the region waited between 15 and 21 days on 1.3m occasions in that period, and for more than a month on more than a million occasions.
Hull North MP Diana Johnson said: “Along with growing NHS waiting times, the shortage of GPs is becoming a serious problem and some GP practices are threatened with closure – such as Faith House in my Hull North constituency
“Areas like Hull have had a shortage of GPs for some time and there have been problems with the recruitment of other NHS staff for many years.
“Coalition government NHS reforms, issues such as the scrapping of nurse bursaries and the uncertainty over Brexit have added to this challenge – especially for the most deprived areas.”
NHS Digital said the figures include consultations with nurses and at specialist clinics, not just GP appointments.
NHS England has said more GP training places are being provided at medical schools around the country and the annual target to recruit enough GP trainees has been surpassed for the first time.
But Ms Johnson said: “Recent funding of extra places to Hull-York Medical School will help but only in the longer term – and the next few years are a real worry.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Appointments booked and attended over 15 days include many patients who require routine follow-ups or prefer to book dates to suit them.
“Around half of all GP appointments are booked and taken on the same day, or within 24 hours.
“There is greater access to GPs now than ever before, with weekend and evening appointments across the country, and an extra £4.5bn investment in primary care through the NHS Long Term Plan, with primary care networks helping to free up extra resource for GP services in every community.”