One in four GPs say their practices may not survive due to “insurmountable pressures”, a new report has found.
The report from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) warned that doctors are bracing for “winter-style pressures” well into the summer and said the NHS “will not survive” without general practice.
In a survey of 2,649 GPs, 27% said their practice was at risk of closing, with nine in ten blaming unmanageable workloads, rising demand and staff leaving the sector.
The authors of the report have called on the government to commit to urgent reforms within the sector.
“The workload pressures in general practice over this winter have been immense, and high levels of patient demand are set to continue for some time,” they said.
“General practice is in crisis. We cannot rely on short-term emergency funding pots over winter to try and paper over the cracks.
“Without a functioning primary care service, the NHS will fail.”
Stress on GPs and dwindling numbers ‘extremely worrying’
RCGP chair Kamila Hawthorne told Sky News the pressure on GPs is so high that doctors themselves often need medical attention for stress.
“I’ve certainly heard of colleagues of mine becoming so stressed during their days of work that they’re developing chest pain and needing to be seen themselves,” she said.
“If you’re seeing 40 to 60 patients a day and making that number of clinical decisions, it is extremely stressful and worrying because each one of those clinical decisions is important.”
The report makes several recommendations to the government, including cutting red tape and “unnecessary box ticking” so GPs can “focus on patient care”, introducing better help for GPs to deal with surges in demand and measures to retain more staff.
“We are seeing more patients than we’ve ever seen before, we are really busy and getting busier,” Professor Hawthorne added.
“And yet we have fewer doctors because GPs are leaving the profession due to the intolerable workload and workforce crisis that we’re under.
“So we’ve now got 843 fewer full-time equivalent GPs since 2019, and the numbers are going down and down and down. That’s all extremely worrying.”
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The report’s authors concluded: “Unless significant action is taken in the short-medium term, pressures will continue to intensify for those still in practice, creating a vicious cycle whereby increasing numbers of GPs continue to leave the workforce due to insurmountable pressures.
“Urgent action is needed to break this cycle, supporting today’s GPs to stay in practice while we continue to train tomorrow’s GPs.”
But the government defended its record.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are 400 more doctors in general practice compared to a year ago and we are delivering almost 120,000 extra appointments every day.”