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Extra £1bn funding Needed Or NHS Will Be ‘unsustainable’
6 January 2014
After the Prime Minister announced plans for a seven day working week for GP surgeries, the new head of the Royal College of GPs has warned that the NHS would be unable to sustain the extra demand of patients unless an injection of an extra £1bn of money is provided to the NHS.
Dr Maureen Baker, head of the Royal College of GPs, told Sky News that the seven day working week and longer surgery opening hours required an inevitable rise in staffing-to the tune of 20,000 extra GPs, nurses and other NHS staff. This would cost the taxpayer in the region of an extra £1bn in recruiting this extra staff and sustaining the demands of a seven day working week, she further warned. This would particularly help GPs and hospitals during the winter months when extra demand from patients would be at its highest. She said:
"If we were to move to seven days a week we would need 10,000 more GPs.
"We probably need the same number of practice nurses and a proportionate number of support staff.
"We don't think seven days a week is realistic."
She became the new head of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) just a month before the Prime Minister made clear he wanted GPs to work a greater number of hours.
Dr Baker’s estimate is in contrast with the existing roster of GPs currently working in the UK. According to the British Medical Association (BMA) the figure is 40,000 and the RCGP states that in order to meet the inevitable rise in demand this must rise by a quarter.
Dr Baker made clear that the government proposals would stretch existing GP practices to breaking point, stating that they were already “besieged” as they find it increasingly difficult to deal with the current influx of patients, particularly in the winter months.
"It is constant demand with very little let-up," she said.
"We know our colleagues are working 11 to 12-hour days, and that is really difficult to do day after day when it is a job you need to be on top form for.
"They are feeling pressurised and besieged and looking for a bit of respite."
Dr Baker added that extra funding and resources were required by Gps as a matter of urgency: "The consequence (of not having extra resources) will be the winter pressure effect that comes up every year gets longer and longer.
"My fear is the whole of the NHS becomes unsustainable due to the failure to properly invest in general practice."
In October 2013, the Prime Minister said the extended surgery hours would reflect the lifestyles of working people, and that GP surgeries should therefore open from 8am until 8pm, stating that it was difficult for working people to find appropriate appointment times during the working week.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "GPs do a vital job which is why we increased their overall budget last year as part of our protection of NHS funding.
"We have made £50m available to help innovative GPs to extend their services and stay open longer - either on their own or by working with other local practices.
"We have also asked Health Education England to see how we can get 50% of medical students to become GPs."
This ‘innovation’ has seen some GP surgeries shuffle their existing appointment scheduling to try out new working methods. For example, the organisation Patient Access created a system whereby GPs call back patients within an hour of them calling the surgery. This system was used at the Phoenix Surgery in Swindon, where 60% of those patients who called in were being dealt with via the telephone with the remaining 40% given same-day appointments at the surgery itself.
Dr Peter Swinyard said: "I can deal with two or three patients in the time it used to take me to deal with one.
"I was terrified. You have been working in a certain pattern for 29 years and now you're doing something different.
"But we are providing a better service, a service that patients have a right to expect."
Mistreatment.com wants to hear about your NHS experiences and what your existing GP surgery care is like. Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist teams that can provide you with relevant advice, guidance and support so that you know exactly what your patient and healthcare rights are so that you know exactly where you stand.