29 May 2014

GPs Warnings Over Impact of Funding Cuts on Patient Care

Patients will find it increasingly difficult to book an appointment with their GP without urgent investment in general practice, the Royal College of GPs NI (RCGPNI) today warns.

Commenting today on new figures published  by the Patient and Client Council, which highlighted how over a quarter (26.5%) of patients surveyed  were dissatisfied with the access they had to their GP, the College warned how this situation is only set to get worse without the vital funding the profession needs.

The number of patients seeking an appointment with their GP is soaring, whilst funding for general practice is plummeting and has now reached an all time low.

This slump in funding, along with a growing and ageing population, where increasing numbers of patients have multiple chronic conditions, is impacting on the ability of general practice to cope with the surge in demand and to deliver the level of care which patients deserve.

On average, general practice sees around 10.5 million consultations per year, with every patient currently consulting their practice 6.5 times a year - 100% higher than patients who see their GP in the Republic of Ireland.

In the UK, general practice receives 8.39% of the health service spending. In Northern Ireland, this figure was even lower at 7.96% in 2012/13. In real terms, funding for general practice in Northern Ireland has fallen by £21.20million between 2008/09 and 2012/13, a percentage decrease of 8.22%.

In response to the funding crisis in general practice, the College and the National Association for Patient Participation have launched a campaign called ‘Put Patients First: Back General Practice,’ which is calling on the Government to ensure that 11% of the NHS budget is invested in general practice by 2017.

Chair of the RCGPNI, Dr John O’Kelly, responded to the survey results:

“We have seen how patients are already struggling to see their doctors when they need to.

“GPs want to deliver the best care possible for our patients, but this can only happen if the fall in spending in general practice is reversed – we are already seeing the consequences on patient care, and there will be wider implications on the rest of the health service.

“General practice in Northern Ireland is experiencing unparalleled levels of pressure -  whilst GPs and practice nurses want to provide high-quality care and be able to respond to the needs of the patients they serve, general practice cannot keep doing more in a climate where investment in the service is falling in real terms.

“The reform of healthcare services in Northern Ireland seeks to shift patient care away from hospitals to treating patients locally in their community, but GPs need the money to do this so that they can offer more appointments and longer appointments to patients when they need them.

“I am proud of my colleagues and their staff in delivering quality services under the worst financial constraints I have known as a GP - if the Government really wants to help GPs provide the high quality care that patients deserve, they must increase funding to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017.”

Further Information

For further information contact Ashleigh Simpson: 020 3188 7722  
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 49,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.