GP crisis: ‘GPs doing their best with limited resources’

Head and shouldera photo of Dr Steve Taylor

GPs are doing a fantastic job despite the cuts to funding over the past two decades, says Doctors’ Association’s UK (DAUK) spokesperson Dr Steve Taylor.

Dr Taylor told national radio listeners that demand on general practice was higher than ever at a time when it was underfunded and understaffed.

He was being interviewed on the Nick Ferrari Show on LBC about figures which showed more than 17.6 million GP appointments took place at least four weeks after being booked in England in 2023, the highest on record.

This was a rise of 38 per cent on 2022, when 12.8 million appointments took place more than 28 days after booking, listeners were told.

Dr Taylor said the figures relating to the number of people waiting at least four weeks to see a GP were a concern.

But he said demand for general practice was at an all-time high, that GPs were seeing record numbers of patients – despite cuts to funding and staffing – and that they prioritised the most important cases.

He said: “We have huge demand for appointments and there are 2,000 fewer GPs than there were in 2015.

“The figures are a bit worrying.

“GPs try their very best to triage the most important ones.

“If it’s a child under five we will see them that day and usually within a few hours.

“GPs are always trying their very best with the limited resources to try to see the important, most urgent, most necessary appointments within a day or a couple of days.

“It’s the slightly less important ones, which are probably a little bit less urgent, that are having to wait.”

He added: “Are we being a bit negative about this? I think we are.

“GPs provided 348 million appointments last year compared with 230 million the year before, so almost 20 million more appointments were provided in 2023 versus 2022.

“The other bit that’s missing from the statistics is that same-day appointments actually went up 6 million last year compared to the year before, so 150 million done on the day with 144 million the year before.

“A total of 70 per cent of those in both years were face to face.

“So more people are waiting four weeks but more are being seen on the same day. We’re doing more of everything, but with fewer resources.”

The interview also covered a report by the King’s Fund, which calls for a ‘radical refocus of the health and care system to put primary care and community services at its core’ during an interview 

The report said the lack of primary care investment was ‘one of the most significant and long-running policy failures of the past 30 years’.

Dr Taylor said: “One of the things that the King’s Fund report pointed out quite clearly was that the balance of funding towards community and primary care is hugely out of kilter with the amount of work that’s being done in community and primary care.

“I think that’s one of the challenges we have in the country.

“We’re quite secondary care focused. We talk about A&E, we talk about hospital appointments, but we rarely talk about the good work that’s being done in general practice, and also the poor funding they receive as a result of decisions over the past 10, 20, or 30 years.”

Listen again to the interview on LBC. The segment starts around two hours and five minutes into the programme.