Published Thursday, 29 May 2014
Doctors have called for investment in services to cope with demand. (© UTV)
The college has said requests for appointments were "soaring" while funding for general practice was "plummeting" and had reached an "all-time low" with clinics struggling to cope with the demand.
The Patient and Client Council has said over a quarter of people were dissatisfied with the access they had to their doctors and the Royal College of GPs has warned that the situation will only get worse unless vital funding is provided.
On average, doctors undertake 10.5m consultations annually with every patient seeing their GP six times a year.
Chair of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr John O'Kelly, said: "We have seen how patients are already struggling to see their doctors when they need to.
"GPs want to deliver the best care possible for our patients, but this can only happen if the fall in spending in general practice is reversed.
"We are already seeing the consequences on patient care, and there will be wider implications on the rest of the health service.
"General practice in Northern Ireland is experiencing unparalleled levels of pressure.
"While GPs and practice nurses want to provide high-quality care and be able to respond to the needs of the patients they serve, general practice cannot keep doing more in a climate where investment in the service is falling in real terms."
He added: "The reform of healthcare services in Northern Ireland seeks to shift patient care away from hospitals to treating patients locally in their community, but GPs need the money to do this so that they can offer more appointments and longer appointments to patients when they need them.
"I am proud of my colleagues and their staff in delivering quality services under the worst financial constraints I have known as a GP.
"If the government really wants to help GPs provide the high quality care that patients deserve, they must increase funding."
The British Medical Association has said patients would like to see extended opening hours at GP services including late nights and at weekends.
Dr Tom Black, chairman of the BMA's Northern Ireland committee added: "We acknowledge that sometimes patients do have to wait to see their GP, particularly if they want to see a specific GP.
"This is against a backdrop of increasing demand with an ageing population with more complex health needs which is why we are calling on government to respond to our call for long term sustainable investment in GP services".
© UTV News