The Royal College of GPs are calling on patients to sign a petition calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to save General Practice from a growing crisis and prevent GP waiting lists from spiralling out of control
The petition has been accompanied by a hard-hitting poster showing long queues of people waiting outside a GP practice in a nightmare vision of the future, which was sent out to every surgery in the UK over the past few weeks.
The petition and poster, which have been produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the National Association for Patient Participation, call on the governments of the UK to reverse the cuts made to the funding of general practice over the last decade - which many believe have left some services struggling to survive.
Over half of Northern Irish adults (52%) say that over the next two years they expect waiting times to get an appointment to see a GP will get longer, based on a survey commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners.
The Chair of the Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland, Dr John O’Kelly, said: “The number of patients seeking an appointment with their GP continues to soar. GP activity has increased by 7 per cent in the past year alone despite funding for general practice being at an all time low.
“Despite carrying out 90 per cent of all NHS patient contacts, General Practice receives only 7.96 per cent of health service spending in Northern Ireland, which is lower than the UK average of 8.39 per cent.
“The College believes that if this chronic underinvestment continues, we will be heading towards a crisis in general practice.
“The RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation are calling on the Government as part of our ‘Put Patients First: Back General Practice’ campaign to halt the underinvestment and ensure that 11% of the NHS budget is invested in general practice by 2017.
“The risk to safe patient care has never been greater - and it is because GPs are so concerned about the standard of care they can deliver that we hope patients across the country will sign our petition calling on the four governments of the UK to give general practice the investment it desperately needs.
“Never before has the College felt it necessary to ask patients to sign a petition or to send each practice such a hard-hitting poster for their waiting rooms, but general practice is now under greater pressure than ever before.
He added: “The College believes that patients deserve the highest possible quality of care and good access to their GP. Patients are having to wait even longer for appointments and it is inevitable that some of them will end up going to hospital or worse still, not seeking help at all.
“If general practice is to be saved from disintegration the Northern Ireland Executive must increase investment in the service to 11 per cent of the NHS budget by 2017.”
The ‘Put Patients First: Back General Practice’ petition can be accessed online at http://www.rcgp.org.uk/campaign-home/get-involved/petition.aspx or in your local GP surgery.