GPs predict longer waiting times - survey
Patients will find it more difficult to see a GP in the future as budgets get squeezed, doctors are predicting.
A Royal College of General Practitioners poll of 206 UK GPs found that more than 70% were forecasting longer waiting times within two years.
Eight in 10 also said they did not have enough resources to provide high-quality care, the survey showed.
A Patients Association report this year suggested that people were already having to wait longer.
Six in 10 of those polled by the royal college said patients in England were waiting longer than the recommended 48 hours.
Primary care, which includes GP services, has been one of the worst hit by the funding squeeze in the health service.
Spending has effectively been frozen for the past six years in England, and while there have been rises in funding elsewhere in the UK, they have been smaller compared with those given to other parts of the health service such as hospitals.'Breaking point'
The RCGP said this situation was beginning to have an impact.
Chairman Dr Clare Gerada said: "GPs are grappling with a double whammy of spiralling workloads and dwindling resources, and big cracks are starting to appear in the care and services that we can deliver for our patients.
"We are particularly concerned about the effect this is having, and will continue to have, on waiting times for GP appointments.
"The profession is now at breaking point and we do not have the capacity to take on any more work without extra funding and resources to back it up."
The poll showed that 78% of GPs had already seen a reduction in opening hours over the past two years, while nearly half had cut back on the range of services they offered.
Ben Dyson, of NHS England, said: "We fully recognise that demands and patterns of healthcare are changing, and that this is increasing pressure on parts of the NHS.
"That's why we have recently published a call to action about the future of general practice to help stimulate new, innovative approaches to providing services and ensuring every patient gets the care they need."