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Independents' Day

Primary care investment not enough, says NHS England advisor

The extra funding for primary care falls short of what is needed to ensure good provision of patient care, NHS England's clinical advisor has said. 

In January, the Government pledged to invest £4.5bn in primary and community care by 2023/24 as part of the NHS long-term plan.

This is £1bn more than the previous £3.5bn pledged in November, which former Prime Minister Theresa May said would be used to ensure more patients are cared for at home and in the community rather than in hospital settings.

Despite the increase, GP and NHS England national clinical advisor for primary care Dr Karen Kirkham expressed concerns over the funding, saying it might not be enough to allow services to manage patients 'properly'.

During a session at the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) conference last week in Birmingham, journalist and broadcaster John Stapleton asked a panel of experts whether the Government's funding pledges for the NHS 'will make any difference to what they do'.

In response, Dr Kirkham said: 'I’m really concerned with the primary care funding also. And there’s £4.5bn coming in over the next five years, mainly around the workforce and the network contracts with general practice.

'I do see this as a real investment, but I think this is on the back of minimal investment for 10 years.

'So it’s not to bring us up to a level where we can actually start to really think about how we can manage people properly, but we can’t do it on our own it has to be a system-wide response.'

In a separate session on the progresses made in primary care, NAPC chair Dr Nav Chana asked NHS England director of primary care and system transformation Dominic Hardy if he believed that the £4.5bn, alongside the '£1.8bn around PCNs' was enough 'to do the stuff that we’re talking about'.

Mr Hardy pointed out that the NHS cannot receive an unlimited flow of money, saying that 'the trick is to make the very most of what we have'. 

He said: 'If you had unlimited cash for the NHS then of course you’d beg for more money. But that’s what we’ve got and the trick isn’t to keep asking for more, the trick is to make the very most of what we do have.’

Following the £4.5bn funding boost announcement, health secretary Matt Hancock told Pulse that some of the funding would be used to relieve pressure on GPs rather than introduce new services.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Dominic Hardy- actually a fair comment- but that means rationing treatments at a government level, not breaking the backs of the staff trying to deliver all the demands patients have

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  • The problem is,
    1. How much of this extra investment is really extra investment? We are used to lots of announcements that end up being pure fantasy.
    2. How much of this will be filtered through NHSE Regional Teams and CCGs, top-slicing for their own vanity projects along the way? We are used to significant sums being announced then somehow disappearing before it gets to us.
    3. How much will be diverted away from core activity into projects of dubious value, like PCNs.
    4. How much actually makes it into the coffers of practices, so we can pay our staff better, employ more staff and genuinely take the pressure off.
    I'm willing to bet that - rather like the 'game-changing' GP Forward View - nothing gets to the front line and nobody notices any significant change.
    You can make a difference, NHSE: stick the £4.5 billion into the GMS contract directly.

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