Chairman of the British Medical Association Dr Mark Porter has used an interview in the Guardian to warn that the NHS is “palpably fraying at the edges”, with crucial services unable to cope with rising demand, at the same time as the financial viability of the NHS is threatened. Dr Porter added that a lot of the performance indicators paint a worrying picture, with waiting times for elective care going up, while the four-hour target at A&E units are deteriorating.
His comments come as recent findings by Imperial College London suggest that nearly six million attendances at English A&E departments could be due to patients being unable to get a convenient appointment with their family doctor. These findings have been contested by the College of Emergency Medicine, whose President, Dr Clifford Manning, commented that, according to their estimates, the number is closer to 2 million patients per year. Dr Manning added that the collocation of GPs and Emergency units could be an important step in dealing with the issues presented by the annual increase in A&E visits.
GP leaders have used these findings to stress the pressures put on General Practice, as well as what they see as underinvestment in the sector. Chair of the Royal College of GPs Dr Maureen Baker called for General Practice to have its percentage of the NHS budget increased to 11% from the current 8.4% by 2017, so that recruitment of more GPs and longer appointments could be possible, in order to take pressure off hospitals.