The BMA’s GP committee chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, told the BBC that GP services were "reaching breaking point", and he blamed "rising patient demand, falling resources and a shortage of GPs" for the crisis.
It has also emerged that at least one hundred GP practices have reportedly applied to stop taking on new patients. Just under half of those that applied in 2014-2015 were either denied permission to do so, or withdrew the request, a Freedom of Information request by the BBC showed.
But Dr Nagpaul said, "Closing their list is the only option to maintain safe care to their local community."
A recent National Audit Office report, which warned of "unacceptable" failings in access to care, revealed that 27 percent of patients had issues getting through to GP’s receptionists — a rise from 19 percent in only three years.
Growing numbers of people also said they were unhappy with their GP’s opening hours, and frustrated with the difficulties in seeing their own GP.
Because GP practices are increasingly unable to cope with patient demand, already overstretched Accident & Emergency departments are having to pick up the slack. The report found that almost 6 million patients a year end up going to A&E or walk-in centres simply because they were unable to get an appointment with their GP.
Roger Goss from Patient Concern told The Telegraph: "It is leaving patients in an extremely difficult situation. Each practice is a law unto itself, but all too often, you have to keep phoning in at 8 a.m. only to find that by the time you finally get through, all the slots are gone. This is a really serious issue. Increasingly, we are finding patients have to wait three weeks for an appointment — no wonder they end up piling up at Accident & Emergency departments."
A Department of Health spokesman said they were aware that "patients want better access to their GP" and that they pledged to provide "everyone with evening and weekend appointments by 2020. To do that we are making available an estimated 5,000 more doctors in general practice so we have the skills we need to provide that seven-day service."
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