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The King’s Fund Warns of the Perfect Storm in the Primary Care

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As far back as July 2014, we wrote about the fall in GP trainee numbers as the emerging crisis in primary care. In that article we discussed not only the falling trainee numbers, but the reasons behind the fall. We concluded that these reasons included:

- The incredible 24 hour pressure of life as a GP

- Excessive time demands

- Unworkable appointment times for proper diagnosis

- Lack of resources

- Workload

- Possibility of litigation

We followed that particular article with several more discussing the impending paralysis of primary care. For example, we discussed why the threat of GP Practice closures is set to become a reality on July 28th 2014, and the possibility of creating and utilising locum chambers as part of a solution to the primary care crisis on July 4th of the same year.

The heart of the problem for the GP practice is the enormous stress and strain that the system is under. This isn’t helped by shenanigans over the way that CQC inspections are handled, but the fact is that GP recruitment is falling at a time when appointment numbers are exploding and funding is being eroded.

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GP Practice: an untenable proposition

Today the King’s Fund warned of the scale of the crisis in the GP profession. In the three years to 2014/15:

- Face-to-face consultations rose by 12.2%

- Telephone consultations soared by 69%

- Consultations with patients over 85 grew by 28%

More experienced GPs are leaving the profession in greater numbers, too – the numbers of GPs aged between 55 and 64 leaving general practice almost doubled from the numbers ten years ago.

On top of all this, NHS funding of GP practices has fallen to less than 8% of total NHS funding, and GP income has fallen to its lowest level in real terms since 2002/3.

We’ll be posting about NHS England’s latest strategy paper, the General Practice Forward View, in the next few days. We believe it presents little to alleviate any of the findings of the King’s Fund report, Pressures in general practice. But things might be even more difficult for the profession than the King’s Fund believes: in its report it states that face-to-face consultations rose three times faster than the GP workforce. The reality is that GP numbers fell by 2% last year… the perfect storm of exploding patient and appointment numbers and crumbling human resource to service them is upon us. Just as we warned almost two years ago.

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