GP crisis sees millions forced to wait a month as service at breaking point

Patients had to wait a month before seeing their doctor in a staggering 15 MILLION cases.

The figure comes amid the Mirror’s GP campaign and as one doctor warned: “The wheels are coming off.”

Doctors and MPs hit out tonight as alarming new figures showed Britain’s creaking GP service is teetering on the brink.

Labour’s furious Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth laid the blame firmly at the door of the Government, saying: “The Tories have spent nine years running the NHS into the ground.”

He spoke as it emerged 15 million appointments were delayed more than 28 days in the 12 months to August.

A similar number were kept waiting between 22 and 28 days. And yet more were only seen between 15 and 21 days.

That meant a total of 55 MILLION GP visits took longer than a fortnight.

A £2million scheme to bring in an extra 2,000 GPs from abroad has so far produced just 350 candidates – with only 58 actually in place as of June.

The shock figures emerged as support grows for the Sunday Mirror campaign End The GP Crisis. We told last week how Britain is veering towards a 7,000 GP shortage within five years because of problems with training and retention.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the future of the NHS was hanging in the balance amid a “chronic lack of resources”.

He warned: “If doctors are tired, the risk of making a mistake increases and, bit by bit, the risk to patient safety becomes all the more real.

"This isn’t just a bad day at the office – for growing numbers of GPs it’s every day and patients suffer as a result.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “The shortage of GPs is leaving patients stranded when they could have serious health issues.

“Our GP service is at breaking point due to the lack of funding and the failure by government to solve the problems with recruitment and retention.”

The Mirror campaign calls on the Government to ease the burden on doctors’ surgeries savaged by Tory cuts.

Our demands include funding for at least 5,000 trainee GPs a year to replace 1,600 places axed by the Tories; nearly 30 million extra appointments to shrink growing surgery waiting times; and improved working conditions to halt a flood of GPs leaving the NHS.

Echoing our calls, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs and our teams will see well over a million patients every day. But whilst we are working ever harder to deliver care to patients, the number of GPs is falling.”

South London GP Louise Irvine, who stood for the NHS Action Party at the last election, sees the problem at first hand.

She said: “GPs do all they can to see the sickest patients as soon as possible. It’s a real struggle and we feel enormous pressure. GP numbers have stood still since 2010, while patient numbers have risen.

“Our practice wanted to employ two more GPs recently but we didn’t have the money. Putting money into extra consultants at the expense of GPs was not a good idea because if patients can’t see a GP, they go to A&E.”

UK patients made 309 appointments in the year to August.

Dr Ron Singer – a GP for 30 years in Edmonton, North London, and member of the Socialist Medical Association – warned: “The wheels are coming off general practice. Younger doctors don’t want to be GPs any more. It’s mentally and physically straining. List sizes are going up.

“So even if practices merge, it is just a cosmetic exercise. We still don’t have enough GPs. Unless you sort out the mess in general practice and give patients easy GP access, the pressure on A&E will never be relieved.”

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