Millions face a postcode lottery in GP services as chronic underfunding has left doctors surgeries’ “on the brink of collapse”, a senior GP has warned.
Research carried out by the Royal College of General Practitioners showed a stark divide in access to doctors, with people living in the most deprived communities facing the longest waiting times.
The study found that 22 per cent of people in Bradford raised concerns about not being able to make an appointment with their GP. Whereas the figure was just 5 pet cent in Bath and north-east Somerset.
There were “shocking discrepancies” in the number of GPs employed locally, the RCGP warned.
North, east and west Devon have 60 GPs for every 100,000 patients - three times as many as Slough in Berkshire which has just 22.
The poorest appear to be the hardest hit by this patchwork of provision, with eight of out of 10 areas with the longest GP waiting times having moderate to high levels of deprivation.
The college said the research, based on the GP Patient Survey, showed the profession is “creaking under the weight of a growing and ageing population”.
They have launched a campaign for an extra £3.5bn a year to be ploughed into GP services, and have put up posters in surgeries showing patients having to queue down the street for an appointment unless extra cash is found.
Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the RCGP said: “Every single patient should be able to see their GP when they are in need of medical assistance, regardless of where they live.
“It is absolutely shocking that, due to the current funding crisis in general practice, patients are now facing a postcode lottery.
“It is doubly unacceptable that those patients affected tend to be those who live in deprived parts of the country.”
A growing and ageing population coupled with a surge in patients with multiple and chronic conditions was piling pressure on GPs, but their share of the NHS budget has been slashed, she said.