FUNDING shortfalls for GPs are predicted to double in the next three years, putting more pressure on under-fire doctors.
The findings, in a study conducted by Deloitte on behalf of the Royal College of GPs, predicts the funding gap will widen, leaving doctors under-resourced by nearly a quarter.
The 20-page report found that, in real terms, a funding shortfall of 12 per cent opened since 2008-9. This is expected to double to 24 per cent by 2017-18 – but could get worse if the funding rates continue to drop.
The RCGP claims there is a funding imbalance because GPs conduct 90 per cent of all NHS contacts each year but general practice receives only eight per cent of total NHS funding – down from nearly 11 per cent in 2005. It follows a series of stories highlighting the pressure GPs are under – it is estimated 33 new practices are needed to cope with growing demand over the next decade.
A recent poll commissioned by the body found 71 per cent of GPs are forecasting longer waiting times for appointments in the next two years.
Four in five said it will become increasingly difficult to deliver continuity of care to vulnerable elderly people and nearly half said they felt they could no longer guarantee safe care to their patients.
The vast majority said they now have insufficient resources to provide high-quality patient care and nearly half of GPs say they have had to cut back on the range of services they provide for their patients in the past two years.
Dr John Gillies, chair of RCGP Scotland, said urgent action was needed to address the imbalance.
“In Scotland, the percentage of NHS spend on general practice has dropped by over 1.5 per cent in the past few years,” he said. “This is despite a rise in population and an increase in demand as a result of both high levels of deprivation and the population growing older.
“GPs would like to keep more elderly patients out of hospital, not only can this be better for the patient but it eases pressure on valuable hospital beds too; we desperately need the resources to make this happen. General practice teams are committed to delivering a high quality service for all their patients and we must ensure that this ability is not compromised any further by diminishing budgets.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said £757 million was directly invested in primary medical services in 2012-13, a ten per cent increase since 2006-7 and a further £6m had been promised for 2014-15, adding: “The 2014-15 General Medical Services contract will also see around £36m redirected into the core contract, enabling greater funding stability for practices, as well as cutting bureaucracy and workload.”