GP surgeries in Bolton are heading towards a crisis, leading doctors have warned.
The growing demands of the ageing population, paired with funding cuts, are pushing general practice to breaking point in the borough, it is claimed.
Health chiefs say the system has to change if surgeries are to shoulder the burden of the town’s health care.
Dr Stephen Liversedge, clinical director of primary care at Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “General practice is struggling to meet the demands across four areas.
“The first is increasing demand from our ageing population, who have multiple health needs. We have underestimated the complexity of the problem and the investment of time it has taken to resolve.
“Secondly, more patients are being discharged from hospital early and we have to support the issues surrounding that.
“Thirdly, patients like chatting things through with their GPs. They are prepared to self-care, but they need the reassurance that what they are doing is appropriate.”
The fourth reason is that GPs do not operate on a tariff for the services they provide.
Even though the number of patients they treat is increasing, the funding they receive from NHS England remains the same.
Dr Liversedge added: “When GPs will describe their working day, most of them say their work has become much more extensive and without a break.”
When asked whether general practice is in crisis, Dr Liversedge said it was not, but admitted the NHS is.
However, Dr Wirin Bhatiani, chairman of Bolton CCG, said: “We are not at crisis point because our GPs are incredibly resilient and come up with innovative ways of dealing with the demand.
“If we don’t do something, we will reach crisis point and that crisis is not too far away.”
Patient groups say access to GP appointments is a problem.
Jack Firth, chairman of Bolton HealthWatch, said: “GP practices need to work differently. A lot of people in Bolton say they cannot access their GP.
“I understand that a lot of people ask to see their own GP and that it’s not always possible.
“But a lot patients struggle to get appointments and the GPs need to do something differently.”