FUNDING cuts and rising demand has left Redditch patients waiting longer to see their GP.
The Royal College of GPs has called the situation an ‘unfolding crisis’ and warned it will get worse without action.
Figures from the latest GP survey show 37 per cent of Redditch patients were seen by their GP either on the same day or the next working day compared to 40 per cent in 2011/12.
In total 62 per cent waited between a few days and over a week for an appointment, up from 57 per cent. Some 13.5 per cent failed to get an appointment at all.
Nationally GPs are under increasing pressure as they grapple with an ageing population and government demands for more care to be provided in the community.
Doctors are carrying out over 40 million more consultations a year than they were in 2008/09 at a time when investment in General Practice has fallen from about 11 per cent of the NHS budget to about eight per cent, a loss of some £9bn across England alone.
The RCGP estimates 34 million patients in England will fail to get an appointment with their GP this year and have launched a campaign to divert more of the NHS budget into General Practice.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group and a Redditch GP, said there were things they could do in the short-term such as looking at the creation of urgent care hubs and better use of other parts of the NHS.
The CCG is also looking at taking on responsibility for commissioning GP services with NHS England which would allow them to influence how and where investment was made.
But he said without extra money and more GPs, patients may have to accept longer waiting times for routine issues.
“It’s not that GPs aren’t working all the hours God sends, they are but they are still struggling.” he said.
“50 per cent of the CCG’s budget goes on the hospital sector. We need to invest more in the community and primary sector where 90 per cent of healthcare happens.
“We also need to do more to educate the public and get them to understand there is not a limitless resource and General Practice is struggling and they may have to wait a bit longer for routine matters. But all GPs will see patients with urgent care needs the same day, as they always have.”
Despite the pressure 84 per cent of Redditch patients still rate their overall GP experience as very good or fairly good.
“We have still got high quality General Practice and that needs to be emphasised.” Dr Wells added.