AS GP leaders head to the city for the annual British Medical Association (BMA) conference today, a York doctor has warned how surgeries are facing a mounting funding crisis. Writing for The Press, Dr John Lethem, a GP at Unity Health said the needs of patients cannot be met without reform and improved resources.

“There can be little doubt that general practice in this city and across the country is struggling to cope. Our health service is under unsustainable pressure from a combination of rising patient demand and falling resources, and many GPs have been left increasingly unable to deliver the services the public want.

“This is why the BMA has launched a major new campaign, ‘Your GP Cares’, which calls on the government to start backing GP services with long term, sustained investment.

“GPs are working harder than ever before; with NHS England estimating that practices are performing an estimated 340 million consultations a year - an increase of 40 million since 2008. Although we’re not averse to taking on more work, I hear too often from colleagues that they don’t have the resources, the staff, or in many cases the buildings to provide the care their patients deserve.

“My practice serves a diverse community of around 23,000 patients with vastly different needs. These include young, often international students from the University of York as well as many elderly, frail patients living with dementia, diabetes, or heart disease. It's vitally important that GPs have the time and resources needed to meet the needs of each individual patient. At the moment, this is unfortunately not always the case.

“Across the UK, we now have ten million older people with complicated conditions that require longer appointments and more intensive care. Around 15 million people living in England have at least one chronic condition that requires care to be delivered in the community and by 2020 a million patients will be living with dementia.

“In short, GPs are now treating more patients with increasingly complex illnesses but without the additional funding and resources needed to from government to help local practices cope.

“We are also particularly concerned about the urgent need to improve mental health services, particularly for specialised services such as eating disorder treatment, in the local area. For patients to access a psychological therapy there is a current waiting time of 12 months or more. This is not acceptable.

“This year, our university health centre will be 20 years old. At the time it was built we had about 8,000 patients attending here but now we have twice that amount. We provide several GP and nurse clinics throughout the day and host many other healthcare workers such as midwives, primary mental healthcare worker and a genitourinary clinic. We desperately need more space but there does not appear to be any central support for us in this matter.

“We need to urgently address the issues facing general practice in order to ensure we can deliver the care our patients deserve. We need sustained investment to expand the number of GPs and other staff in local practices, as well as providing real support for GP services that includes bringing GP practice buildings up to scratch. Only through sustained reform and support will we pull general practice back from the brink.”

- The Local Medical Committees (LMC) two-day conference meets at the Barbican today.

It is due to discuss the increasing demand on GPs, current recruitment and retention issues, and the funding crisis facing GPs.

Campaigners from across the region are expected to gather outside the conference to protest against proposals by ten groups of GPs to introduce charges to patients for appointments

Those protesting have said they believe this would end a fundamental NHS principle of care '"free at the point of use" and put the public at danger.

Although the BMA currently opposes charging patients, campaigners said they are concerned that even a significant minority in favour could make it easier for the Government to pursue such a policy.

The protest will take place outside the Barbican entrance between 8.30 and 10am. Organisers of Defend Our NHS York and York People's Assembly Against Austerity will be joined by members of Leeds Keep Our NHS Public.