Pressures on GPs makes safe patient care increasingly difficult to guarantee, says RCGP

The Royal College of GPs has appeared in the national media defending hard pressed GPs against claims that they are being ‘ordered’ to provide face-to-face appointments

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Long waiting times for GP appointments are as much of a concern for GPs as they are for patients. 

“Patients should have access to high quality GP care when they need it – but that care must also be safe, and the chronic shortage of GPs is making this increasingly difficult to guarantee.

“The move to largely remote consultations during the pandemic was necessary to stop the spread of the virus and keep patients and GP teams safe. It also meant that GPs have been able to carry on working when many other NHS services had to close down. 

“Face to face consultations have been offered throughout, where clinically appropriate and safe, and will always be an essential element of general practice, but remote consulting should also be an option as things get back to normal because there are advantages to both. Despite the easing of restrictions, this pandemic is far from over and we cannot afford to be complacent.

“Successive governments have failed to invest in our service for more than a decade and GP numbers have declined while our workload has escalated in volume and complexity. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs fell by 4.5% between September 2015 and March 2021, meaning that the ratio of patients to FTE GPs has increased by almost 10%. 

“These pressures are now unsustainable. Six in ten GPs say their mental health has deteriorated in the last year – and 63% say they expect things to get worse over the next five years. A recent College survey found that 34% of GPs expect to leave within five years – a quarter due to stress and burnout – meaning 15,000 GPs could be lost from frontline patient care.

“Whilst this data paints a bleak picture of the current state of general practice,  it also shows why the current government must urgently deliver on its pledge of 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 extra practice staff over the next three years.

“Patients deserve a family doctor but if general practice is allowed to collapse, the rest of the NHS won’t be far behind it and the consequences will be very serious indeed.”

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