We’ve written to the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, the Primary Care Minister Andrea Leadsom, the Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting and the Shadow Primary Care Minister Preet Gill to request urgent action to address issues in primary care.
We are writing to express our significant concerns about the ongoing funding and staffing crisis in general practice, and an urgent need for action. Recent media stories have brought to light the serious impact of underfunding and staff shortages on patient care, and we fear these incidents could be just the beginning of a much larger problem.
Recent data from Cancer Research UK indicates that the UK is falling behind other comparable countries in the early detection of cancer. Additionally, the BBC’s Today programme suggested that GPs require more training to effectively identify cancers. A study published in BMJ Quality and Safety highlighted the safety concerns associated with certain types of remote GP consultations, although the majority are safe. Moreover, the BBC reported a case where a patient’s cancer was missed after consulting with eight different GPs, and the Telegraph shared the tragic story of Ruby, whose cancer signs were overlooked by seven GPs.
The rapid increase in non-doctor staff, the push towards working at scale, and persistent funding cuts have contributed to a rise in missed diagnoses. We have prioritised broad access and seeing any available clinician over the well-documented benefits of continuity of care with a GP. Continuity of care is known to reduce mortality, reduce the likelihood of hospital admissions, and improve patient satisfaction. If these benefits were replicated by a medication, it would be prescribed universally. Yet, the current conditions in primary care are the antithesis of this ideal.
Primary care funding has dwindled from 12% to 8% of the NHS budget. Practices have been inundated with non-doctor staff and compelled to work at scale, even for practices where it was unlikely to work. The per-patient funding for primary care stands at £164 annually, regardless of visit frequency. This amount is comparatively lower than many will spend on phone contracts, festival tickets or pet insurance. Adjusted for inflation, the funding should be closer to £197 per patient. The consistent devaluation and defunding of general practice are now manifesting in detrimental outcomes for patients.
We urgently request:
- An increase in the core funding for primary care.
- Significant investment in estates and IT to provide the necessary space and systems for patient consultations.
- Support and trust for GPs to make informed local decisions for their communities, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach from Whitehall.
We need urgent discussions and the development of plans which enable continuity of care at their core. We’re relying on you to listen to those working on the frontline to avoid any more tragedies. We would be happy to discuss these issues further.
Dr Elizabeth Toberty
Dr Steve Taylor
GP Leads for DAUK