Family doctors are fully booked for same-day appointments as soon as they open because of rising demand, the head of the GPs’ professional body has warned.
Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners council, told MPs that the workload for family doctors had risen by around “100%” over the last decade.
“I am getting emails from colleagues across the country to say their surgeries are now fully booked by 8.30 in the morning which is disgraceful,” she told the Commons health select committee.
“How can we run an NHS where you cannot get - unless it is an emergency and by that I mean a dire emergency - an appointment with your GP on the day?
“Where your appointments are fully booked by 8.30am this is not because GPs are going to play golf in the afternoon, it is because they are working 15-hour days trying to respond.”
Dr Gerada called for more funding for primary care to help tackle growing pressures on the NHS. She said GPs were acting as “floodgates” stopping the rest of the NHS from disintegrating.
Constant change in health service organisation was also hindering closer working between groups such as local authorities, GP surgeries and hospitals to help reduce pressures on A&E services, she said.
She said it was “lazy” to blame the rise in demand on A&E departments on the introduction of the new GP contract in 2004 which removed responsibility for providing out of hours care from GPs .
“I think it is lazy to blame the 2004 GP contract, to blame a contract that is nearly 10 years old for an issue that has become a problem recently,” she said.
She insisted that GPs had never stopped delivering out of hours care.
“It is demoralising for my profession to be on the front page of some of the newspapers with our feet up…. it is just terrible, I wish we could all work together to sort it out because we have to for our patients,” she said.
Dr Gerada was giving evidence to the select committee’s inquiry into emergency services and emergency care.