The Doctors’ Association UK highlighted the pressures facing GPs and primary care during a discussion on national radio.
Dr Steve Taylor, DAUK spokesperson, said GPs were carrying out more face-to-face appointments than before the pandemic PLUS an additional 20 to 25 per cent online, over the phone or by video.
And that was despite there being a UK-wide shortfall of between 7,000 and 8,00 GPs, he told listeners to the Nick Ferrari programme on LBC.
He said cuts to funding were creating ‘a perfect storm’ by making it harder to recruit and retain GPs, which increases the pressure on those already in practice
Dr Taylor said: “Funding of primary care and community care – and I don’t mean just GPs but also district nurses, health visitors and all of those things – primary care is generally underfunded, which means we don’t have enough cash in the primary care set up to recruit and retain doctors.
“There are 2,000 fewer GPs now than there were in 2015, which is a huge drop given that in 2015 we knew then that we needed 5,000 more GPs.
“That’s 7,000 or 8,000 fewer than we need now.
“I’ve been a GP for 30 years and it was better 10 years ago when overall numbers of GPs were increasing.
“But if you keep cutting community care the job gets harder and harder and there’s a perfect storm then.”
Dr Taylor added: “Overall physical access to GPs has gone up considerably over the past 12 months.
“There were more people seen face to face last year than the year before, and that’s more than in 2019.
“In addition to that, there were 20 to 25 per cent more appointments given online, by telephone and via computer access. They are the extra appointments on top.
“I know it’s surprising, there will be 1.4m people having access to GP appointments today, and 70 per cent of those will be face to face.”
The interview also touched on some of the issues facing accident and emergency departments.
According to an analysis by the Liberal Democrats, a record 420,000 patients waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E in 2023 – an average of 1,150 a day – up 20 per cent on the previous year.
Dr Taylor said: “It’s dreadful. I’ve been a patient and I’ve sat with friends in A&E and it’s an awful situation.
“The overall numbers of people attending A&E aren’t hugely up, so the problem is somewhere else, so it does appear to be that the A&E departments aren’t able to move people on.
“Last year, Rishi Sunak said he would try to get 5,000 more beds for this coming winter to cover the problems and, sadly, we’re into winter and have 1,000 fewer beds than we had last winter, which is appalling.”
The interview is available below to listen to again.