The proportion of NHS funding allocated to general practice across Britain has hit a nine-year low, according to figures published by the RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation (NAAP).
In 2004/2005, 10.33 per cent of the British NHS budget was spent on general practice. By 2011 to 2012, this figure had decreased by almost two per cent to 8.4 per cent, which was even lower than has been originally expected.
When Northern Ireland was taken into account, the percentage spent on general practice across the UK had fallen to 8.39 per cent.
In England 10.55 per cent of the NHS budget was spent on general practice in 2004/2005. By 2011/2012 this had fallen to 8.5 per cent. In Scotland, the budget spent on general preactice in 2004/2005 was 9.47 per cent, compared with the 7.78 per cent in 2011/2012. In Wales the amount spent on general practice had fallen from 8.58 per cent to 7.77 per cent in the same period of time.
Figures were not available for Northern Ireland for 2004/2005, but by 2011/2012, the figure was down to 8.1 per cent from 8.22 per cent the previous year.
The decline in funding comes despite the fact that general practice carries out 90 per cent of all contacts across the NHS.
In response to the ongoing reductions in funding, the RCGP and NAPP have launched a new campaign, 'Put Patients First, Back General Practice', which is calling for the government to increase the percentage of NHS spending on general practice across the UK to 11 per cent by 2017.
Chair of the RCGP Dr Maureen Baker highlighted the mismatch between rhetoric and funding allocation. 'On the one hand, the people who run the NHS across the UK say they want more people to be cared for in the community. On the other, resources have relentlessly drifted away from the community-based health services towards more expensive hospital-based care.
'We need to increase our investment in general practice as a matter of urgency, so that we can take the pressure off our hospitals where medical provision is more expensive, and ensure that more people can receive care where they say they want it - in the community,' she added.