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Patients 'will wait week' to see GP
11:40am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in News
MORE patients will be forced to wait for a week or more to see their family doctor because of a shortage of GPs.
Some 27 million people in England will have to wait for at least a week for an appointment next year because of the shortfall, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned.
The college says numbers of GPs in England are in sharp decline compared with a rise in the amount of hospital doctors - a gap which it predicts will widen.
Family doctors are concerned that waiting times will increase further, with 71 per cent expecting them to be longer within the next two years because of fewer resources for general practice, the college said.
It says that 11 years ago there were 2,500 more full-time equivalent GPs than hospital doctors.
Last year, there were 31,700 GPs compared to 38,200 hospital doctors, a difference of 6,500.
Chairman Dr Maureen Baker said: “It is vital to ensure that patients are able to access their local GP quickly and effectively - just as it is important for hospitals to have adequate numbers of qualified consultants to look after patients who are in need of acute health care.
“We need to ensure that we have enough GPs to provide patients with good access to high-quality health care in local communities across the UK.”
A&E departments are increasingly coming under pressure from high levels of demand.
And Patricia Wilkie, chairwoman of the National Association for Patient Participation, warned: “Unless there is an increase in the overall numbers of GPs and more financial resources to practices to employ more GPs to provide a safe and timely service, patients will have no alternative but to use A&E to receive the medical attention they need.
“This is not what patients wish nor the best use of NHS resources.”
But Health Minister Dan Poulter said: "The recent GP survey showed that 86 per cent of patients rate their overall experience of their GP practice as good.
“To better support GPs, we have announced a £50 million fund for innovative GP practices to improve access for their patients so that working people and people who lead busy lives will have better access to GP services.
"Our new GP contract will also introduce more personalised care for vulnerable older people and same-day telephone consultations for the most vulnerable patients on practice lists.
“And the Government has also committed to increase the number of GP trainees from 40 per cent of all newly-qualified doctors leaving medical school to 50 per cent by 2020 and GP numbers will continue to grow faster than the population.”
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