General practice will cost the National Health Service £1.2 billion a year by 2025 because of an “explosion” of people living with long-term conditions, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned.
The College is forecasting that, if current trends continue, not only will 1 million more people be living with LTCs in just 10 years, but it will be 65 years before the share of the NHS budget for general practice is back on par with that a decade ago, when multi-morbidities were nowhere near as prevalent.
“It is a great testament to modern medicine that nowadays we are much more likely to prevent or treat diseases that in the past killed people so early in their lives…But this success has brought with it a whole new set of challenges to which the NHS is currently struggling to respond,” noted RCGP chair Margaret Baker.
GPs and practice teams make 370 million patient consultations a year – 60 million more than just five years ago – a direct result of the UK’s growing and ageing population and surge in patients presenting with multiple LTCs. And yet workforce levels have remained flat and the sector now bags just 8.33% of the overall NHS budget.
Dr Baker has reiterated the call for a “new deal” and a “real deal” for general practice in future, but also dismissed the English government’s obsession with seven-day working as “living in cloud cuckoo land” and a “recipe for disaster” with current resources.
“Mr Hunt you say ‘new deal’, but my message to you and Mr Cameron is this… If you don’t shore up existing GP care as your top priority, not only will you not get a seven day service, but you won’t have a five day service either – because you will have completely decimated general practice”.
The College is making five demands to help put general practice back on a secure footing: more resources – 11% of the overall NHS budget and an immediate injection of £750 million of additional core funding in the next financial year; more GPs; less red tape – including an urgent rethink on the bureaucracy involved in Care Quality Commission inspections; the latest technology and infrastructure; and the freedom to innovate – with a focus on promoting GP-led new models of care.