Doctors warn patients will face longer waits to see their GP this winter due to a £10.2 billion funding black hole.
The prediction is the latest blow to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s failing efforts to combat a looming crisis across the NHS, according to the Mirror.
Family doctors said surgeries had lost out to the tune of £10.2 billion over the last eight years as health chiefs redirected taxpayers cash away from surgeries towards hospitals. According to new research by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), doctors now get £2.4 billion a year less because the funds they get have not kept pace with the cash given to NHS hospitals.
They say the NHS budget has grown in real terms by 18% over the last six years. But GPs complain that their funding has fallen by 8.3% over the same period - despite a growing population and mounting pressure on their waiting rooms. Their new research shows there is now a funding black hole facing family doctors of £9 billion in England, £925m in Scotland, and £250m in Wales.
The squeeze comes even though the British population has grown by 2.6m to 61.4 million in 2011 and many more people suffering from serious, long-term conditions, said the GPs.
An opinion poll conducted for the doctors showed 71% of GPs expect waiting times to worsen over the next two years due to the cash squeeze. Doctors are calling on Health Secretary Mr Hunt to boost their share of NHS cash to help them cut waiting times in surgeries and offer more flexible opening hours.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: “The vast majority of GPs think that the decline in funding for general practice will regretfully lead to longer waiting times for patients over the next two years.
“This lengthening of waiting times is a continuous process, and will inevitably worsen this winter as temperatures plummet.
“This is bad news for patients and bad news for the whole of the NHS. If waiting times become longer, this will make it more difficult for GPs to ensure that problems are caught early, and risks intensifying pressure on already overstretched A&Es.
“GPs want to offer their patients faster and more convenient access but are being held back from doing so by a chronic lack of resources.
“The Government must take urgent action to pump more resources into general practice so that family doctors can treat patients in the community, thereby taking the pressure off hospitals.”