PRIMARY CARE: GPs across Coventry have written to patients telling them that general practice is ‘in crisis’ due to a reduction in government funding as a proportion of the total NHS budget.

The Coventry Local Medical Committee has circulated the letter [need link] to GP practices in the area, following patient frustration over the difficulty getting appointments.

The letter said relative funding reductions, a rise in consultations and recruitment difficulties have resulted in a “crisis” in the sector.

NHS England has rejected the claim but acknowledged that GP services will be “more heavily relied on” during winter.

The letter, sent last month, said: “Coventry GPs are aware that some patients are finding it increasingly difficult to get the appointments and services they need from us, and feel you should be made aware of the reasons.

“Over the past few years, successive governments have reduced the investment in general practice from around 10 per cent of the NHS budget to nearer 7 per cent.

“In spite of this reduction in funding …there are currently 340 million GP consultations a year, an increase of 40 million in the last five years.

“In short, general practice is in crisis.”

David Williams, locality director for NHS England (West Midlands) said: “GP and primary care services are the bedrock of the NHS and in the West Midlands we are investing time, funding and resources into ensuring that high-quality GP services are available for all.

“In the West Midlands, we are always striving to recruit, retrain and retain local GPs. Overall investment in general practice in NHS England’s first year of operation, 2013-14, was £8.75bn, up 3.5 per cent on 2012-13 and a 1.6 per cent increase in real terms.

“While we do not agree that general practice in Coventry is in ‘crisis’, as winter approaches, GP services are more heavily relied on.

“In order to ensure all patients stay well this winter, it’s vital that patients are seen by the most appropriate health professional.”