Patient care is being compromised by a “chronic lack of investment” in GPs, leading family doctors have warned.

GP funding in England has reached its lowest level on record, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said.

Funding for family doctors now accounts for 8.5 per cent of the NHS budget compared to 10.95 per cent eight years ago, despite the fact that 90 per cent of NHS patient contacts are made in general practice, the college said.

The stretch on finances has come at a time when demand for GP services has “risen rapidly”, it said.

There needs to be a shift so that more NHS funding is spent on care in the community which would help to reduce the burden on hospitals and other services, said RCGP chairman Maureen Baker.

She said that the funding allocation should change so that 11 per cent of the NHS’s budget is spent on general practice by 2017. The comments come as Dr Baker wrote to all 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England urging them to deliver extra funding for general practice. Dr Baker said: “A chronic lack of investment in general practice is compromising patient care across the whole NHS. “In a recent RCGP poll, four out of five GPs said they were concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to deliver continuity of care to vulnerable
elderly people due to cuts in funding.

“We understand that resources are tight across the NHS and CCGs are facing the difficult challenge of ensuring proper investment in a range of services whilst balancing an extremely tight budget. 

“In the context of an ageing population with patients increasingly living with multiple long-term conditions, we believe there is a strong case for investing in the generalist skills that GPs and their teams provide.”

She added: “We are campaigning for a wider shift of investment towards the front line of care in the community to help reduce the burden on hospitals and the NHS as a whole.

“Funding for general practice in England has reached its lowest point on record – down to just 8.5 per cent of the NHS budget compared to 10.95 per cent eight years ago.

“This has happened at a time when demand for GP services has risen rapidly – from 300 million consultations in 2008 to an estimated 340 million today.

“We are campaigning for the share of the NHS budget spent on general practice to be increased to 11 per cent by 2017.

“We hope that CCGs will support our campaign and help us capitalise on the funding opportunities that will help us reverse the decline in general practice so that we can deliver the care that our patients need and deserve in their own communities.”