More than 34 million patients in England will this year fail to get an appointment with their GP when seeking treatment, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has claimed.
Rapidly growing demand combined with the lack of funding in general practice means many patients will fail to secure a consultation with a GP or practice nurse.
But the RCGP has pointed out that general practice now sees 40 million more patients per year than in 2008-09.
The College estimates that the average number of consultations carried out by each GP in England per year has increased by 1,450 since 2008 from 9,264 to 10,714.
The College also believes that each GP practice in England dealt with 4,384 more consultations per year in 2011/12 compared to 2004/05.
Between 2008/09 and 2011/12, the total number of consultations in general practice – including visits to both GPs and practice nurses – is estimated to have risen from 300.4 million to 340 million.
The College’s assessment of how many patients will fail to secure an appointment this year is based on the figures contained in the latest GP Patient Survey, published in December.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: "The unprecedented decline in funding for healthcare in the community has brought general practice to its knees. GPs and practice nurses want to provide high-quality care for every single patient who seeks a consultation, and over the last decade we have increased the number of patients we see each year in England by 40 million.
“However, GPs and practice nurses can’t keep doing more for less and now that funding for general practice in England has slumped to just 8.5% of the NHS budget the service we provide is in crisis.
“All three political parties say they want to see more patients being treated in the community, where care can be provided to patients more economically, in their own surroundings, and yet resources are increasingly being diverted away from communities and into hospitals. By continually diverting resources into hospitals, we have fuelled a real and growing crisis in general practice.”
She added: “If the gfovernment and NHS England really want to give general practice the tools to provide high-quality and comprehensive care in the community they must increase funding for the sector to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017.”