Responding to figures in the Telegraph on patient delays following GP referral to specialist care, Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs work very hard to refer patients appropriately and timely treatment can make all the difference, so it is unacceptable if patients find themselves back to square one due to delays that are no fault of their own.
“Backlogs also place additional pressures on general practice at a time when our service is already stretched beyond endurance. While patients are waiting for operations or specialist consultations, the responsibility for their care and management of their conditions usually falls back on GPs and our teams – and it becomes our responsibility to pick up the pieces if patients need to be re-referred.
“We need urgent action to tackle the backlogs and it is crucial that this includes steps to alleviate the very real impact being felt in general practice, where the majority of patients are seen.
“NHS pressures are not confined to hospitals – GPs and our practice teams were under intense workload and workforce pressures before the pandemic and the crisis has only exacerbated the situation. We are working flat out to deliver care to rising numbers of patients, but the complexity and intensity of GP workload is ever-growing at the same time as the number of fully qualified GPs is falling.
“That’s why the College has launched our Fit for the Future campaign, calling on government to address the spiralling workload and workforce pressures in general practice. We want to see a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged by government in their election manifesto, plus investment in our IT systems and steps to cut bureaucracy so that we can deliver the safe high-quality care that our patients need and deserve.”
RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659
Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.