A REPORT published by the Lancashire and Cumbria Consortium of Local Medical Committees says that the financial pressures faced by GP surgeries in Cumbria is 'alarming’.

The report seeks to highlight the problems felt by GPs which has led to more than 200,000 people in Cumbria being signed up to GP practices which are 'at risk’.

"The future of general practice, collectively and individually, is at stake here,” said the report.

“If action and serious attention is not given to this pressing issue, there is a very real possibility of mass practice closures and patients finding that access to a GP will worsen significantly."

GP appointments are more and more difficult to get, and patients are often having to wait weeks to be seen by a GP, the report said.

The NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) say that they ‘understand’ the ‘ongoing pressures’ felt by GPs but said that it would help practices in north Cumbria ‘access’ the support which was available.

As part of the report, one west Cumbrian GP warned that if financial pressures continue, the NHS will be forced to start charging for appointments.

"I've been a GP for ten years now, and a doctor for fifteen. I've never seen such a difficult time for general practice,” said Dr Dan Berkeley.

"I work around fifty hours a week as a GP partner at my practice. My practice has responsibility for 14,000 patients and employs eighty staff.

"Last year, due to increased costs, without increased funding from the NHS, I lost about forty percent of my income.

"But we are all still here, trying our best for our patients. I think the service we provide is essential, and no matter how hard I work I cannot see everyone who wants to see me.

“We need more funding desperately in order to employ more staff to meet demand. I worry that the government wants GP practices to leave the NHS and start charging their patients, like many dentists do.

“If we want a simple example of why we must resist this, we only need to look at the state of our patient's teeth. Most people simply cannot afford to pay for dentistry. If NHS general practice fades away, they will not be able to afford healthcare either."

The Department for Health and Social Care said that GP funding increased in real terms by 19 per cent between 2017 and 2022, and that their primary care recovery plan is investing up to £645million to expand pharmaceutical services and take pressure off general practice.

But numerous practices in north Cumbria are becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ about the increasing rate of unfunded work they are being asked to do, according to the report.

Complex dressings have been an issue for some time in the area and have prompted discussions with the local hospital Trust which, despite being commissioned to provide this work, often refuse to do so due to system pressures.

The report says that practices in north Cumbria are consistently asked to ‘think of the patient’ when inappropriate transfers of work take place.

In recent years, practices in north Cumbria have endured difficulties, resulting in eleven practices being taken over by the local alliance in order to be sustainable, the report said. Practices are also either merging or applying to close their list for a year to stay viable.

READ MORE: Call for more GPs in Cumbria despite slight rise in number

A spokesperson for the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “The ICB understands the ongoing pressures faced by primary care across the region and we appreciate the study by the Consortium of Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs, and the findings that are presented in this report.

“We know that some practices are in a precarious financial position and, despite investment in making more appointments available, which are now far higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic, there are still pressures on appointments demand.

"Then, with added demands made by secondary care, which is also under significant pressure.

“We will work closely with our LMC colleagues around the issues raised and help practices in north Cumbria access the local and national support that is available, with a view to prioritising support around the practices that are at immediate risk.”