Two thirds of doctors' surgeries in the South West would struggle to remain viable after the Government's planned contract changes, it has been warned.
The worrying message – that practices are already struggling with a heavier and often unsustainable workload – emerged from the largest survey of GPs to date.
Almost half of the 6,000 GPs in Cornwall, Devon, Avon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wessex responded to questions put by their Local Medical Committees ahead of a shift in their contracts in April.
Two out of three (67%) said their practice would "struggle to remain viable" if the changes went ahead while almost half (48%) said their current workload was "dangerously unsustainable".
Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, chairman of the Local Medical Committee in Devon, said: "The survey mirrors growing concerns among the professions leaders about the effects of workload on the safe delivery of a sustainable system of general practice in the South West, especially in view of the forthcoming reduction in resources to practices.
"The NHS is going through a period of great change and the country faces significant financial challenges, but this survey shows the level of risk to the existence of general practice as we know it.
"The personal GP system which is valued by patients and has repeatedly been shown to offer excellent value for money is under serious threat from the Government's plans for the future."
Negotiations between the Department of Health and the British Medical Association on changes to GP working practices broke down in October. Consultation on the Government's proposals closes next month. An imposed contract is likely to come into force from April 1.
Ministers have argued that the changes will lead to fewer deaths from the main diseases and more cases of diabetes, dementia and other conditions being diagnosed earlier.
More than £160 million, which was shared between GP practices for organisational tasks, would only be paid to those who do more to help patients reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels to reduce the number of people dying from a heart attack or stroke.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "No money has been taken away from GPs in our proposals – in fact we have offered extra funding.
"Our changes aim to help GPs manage their workload at the same time as making improvements which will mean better care for all, especially patients with long-term conditions and dementia.
"Improving patient care is our priority. We want to make sure the best possible care is provided in a more consistent way across the country. It is the responsibility of GPs to make sure this happens."