SETTLING into his new life in Scotland, retired GP Prit Buttar has warned of a broken health system that has little hope of resurrecting itself.

With more than 30 years’ experience in medicine, Dr Buttar has said even if government was to drain the entire defence budget, it would not have enough money to pay for healthcare in 2030.

The 56-year-old, who said his final goodbyes to Abingdon Surgery in December, said general practice had become ‘hugely degraded’ and a rising workload paired with falling income was the nail in the coffin for primary care.

He said: “The NHS cannot continue to pay for everything and everyone.

“It seems to me that what we desperately need is a sensible, grown-up discussion about what we can realistically afford to spend on healthcare and what we can realistically expect for that sum of money.

“Personally, I believe the NHS is now broken beyond repair, and even if a government was willing to pour in the sort of money required to save it, it wouldn't be a solution.”

Dr Buttar said that a massive problem GPs have been faced with is the amount of money they receive for each patient on their books per year.

The national average is £146, but in Abingdon GPs will receive between £90 and £100 per patient because of a formula that takes money from affluent areas to ones that have more deprivation.

In 2010 Dr Buttar said he would receive £94 per patient but by 2015 it was £92 and said that GPs had been paying for austerity out of ‘our back pockets.’

He added: “Compare that to the cost of seeing a dentist, or taking your dog to the vet. “Incidentally, the cheapest pet insurance I can find (for hamsters) comes to about £150.

“GPs are expected to provide unlimited care for less than the amount you would have to spend to get one year's cover for your hamster.”

With the money they receive, GP partnerships are expected to pay for its staff and premises.

But with less money came more responsibility as the number of times patients would see their GP increased from an average of four times a year to eight after 2004.

Dr Buttar said: “There are three factors behind this, firstly people who used to die are surviving and require ongoing care and that takes appointments.

“Secondly the population is ageing, in my surgery we calculated that patients under 65 consulted about 3.5 times a year, whereas those over 65 consulted 10 times a year.

“Thirdly there has been a general trend towards people being less willing or able to look after themselves with minor, self-limiting illnesses.

“In the run-up to Christmas my surgery was choked with children and young adults with coughs and colds of barely two days’ duration, who were looking for some guarantee they would be well for Christmas.”

Unsurprisingly, Dr Buttar says, if you have a falling income and rising workload it becomes an ‘increasingly undesirable’ career choice and retaining experienced GPs and recruiting newly qualified doctors is even harder.

Dr Buttar said Theresa May’s recent public address, demanding practices open from 8am-8pm seven days a week after a survey showed practices failing to open full-time, was misleading.

He added: “That survey takes into account branch surgeries.

“We had one in Sutton Courtenay that was only open for three and a half days a week and for the remaining day and a half people would just come to Abingdon.

“She is using GPs as a scapegoat for the problems in A and E.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said:"GPs work incredibly hard and we are investing in primary care precisely to relieve pressure on the frontline - with an extra £2.4 billion of funding, 5000 more doctors in general practice and 1500 more pharmacists in surgeries by 2020.

"Evidence shows that extended GP access is helping to relieve pressure on other parts of the health service such as A&E, with 17 million patients already benefitting from evening and weekend appointments.

"This government is committed to improving access to GP services and by 2020 everyone will be able to access routine GP appointments at evenings and weekends.”

Dr Buttar's solution? Either the government pays up or a new healthcare system will have to replace the NHS.