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GPs go forth

£10m fund for struggling practices is not new money

Exclusive The £10m ‘turnaround’ funding pledged to support struggling practices in the ‘new deal’ for general practice will come out of existing money, and will go to practices who have had issues identified by the CQC, Pulse can reveal.

A parliamentary answer from recently appointed health minister Alistair Burt in response to Labour MP Emily Thornberry revealed that the funding was to be taken from the Primary Care Infrastructure Fund, the £1bn investment over four years announced as part of the 2014 autumn statement.

It was originally believed that the funding was new, and that it would be used to help practices who were in danger of closure due to recruitment issues or withdrawal of funding, among other issues.

However, Mr Burt said that the funding will be spent where the CQC has identified a practice has ‘quality concerns in need of improvement’.

In his new deal speech, health secretary Jeremy Hunt made no reference to the funding coming out of already-announced investment.

He said: ‘I have today also asked NHS England to work with NHS Clinical Commissioners to develop a £10m programme of support for struggling practices. This will include advice and turnaround support for the practice itself and help for the practice to work with others to change its business model.’

Referencing this announcement, Ms Thornberry - who had set up a meeting between practices in danger of closing in London and health secretary Jeremy Hunt - asked whether the £10m represented new funding, what the elgibility will be, and whether it will be contingent on rolling out seven-day services.

Mr Burt said: ‘NHS England will be investing up to £10 million to develop a programme of support for general practitioner practices where the [CQC] has identified quality concerns in need of improvement.

‘The funding will be drawn from this year’s Primary Care Infrastructure Fund, a £1 billion investment over four years, announced as part of the 2014 autumn statement.

‘The programme of support will be developed with NHS Clinical Commissioners and will take learning from a pilot scheme which is being currently being delivered by the [RCGP].’

The health minister did not elaborate on the pilot, but the college has already been involved in developing the special measures support regime, which Pulse revealed could cost practices up to £5,000.

Pulse has been campaigning for funding to support struggling practices as part of its ‘Stop Practice Closures’ campaign, which called for funding to be made available to stop practices reaching crisis point as a result of recruitment issues or underinvestment.

However, the new regime appears to be contingent on the CQC having already identified issues.

Dr Naomi Beer, a GP at the Jubilee Street Practice in Tower Hamlets, London, who has led the ‘Save Our Surgeries’ campaign, said she was disappointed with the announcement.

She said: ‘They’ve obviously chosen to target it on the quality angle, I would say that’s because ministers are paranoid about giving GPs money so they feel like they have to justify it.

‘Which means they still haven’t got the message that general practice, in its entirety is in a bad place and all they’re doing once again is putting a sticking plaster on things.’

The Department of Health has been under fire since Jeremy Hunt’s speech last week, with GPs condemning the supposed ‘deal’ of taking on seven day services in exchange for minimal new investment.

An open letter and social media campaign under the #GPnodeal banner has garnered more than 3,000 signatures calling for the sustained underinvestment in core GP services to be addressed. And the BMA’s Annual Representative’s Meeting this year voted unanimously that the new deal ‘threatens the existence of general practice’.

The GPC told Pulse they would be meeting the CQC to discuss how struggling practices would be identified in the very near future, but added that the £10m funding would not last long when some practices may need significant support.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘It is important to provide the right support for practices that are struggling, often because of issues beyond their control - £10m may sound a lot but is only a small fund when some practices may need significant infrastructure support.’

Readers' comments (23)

  • We don't have to do 7 day / week until the suckering of the 5000 is completed

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  • i guess there is some flexibility in the £10 million ?

    would not be surprised if struggling practices lose an extra £10 million in these plans !

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  • Once agian Hunt is rapidly losing all credibility. I get the impression his advisor's are either idiots or dont like him. At the next cabinet reshuffle I suspect he will be following Lansley to become the Minister for trees and flowers.

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  • After all it is a conservative party pledge to allow 7 day access to "your GP". The electorate will judge Hunt and Cameron on their failure to deliver. It is early days yet but pressure will mount on them throughout this parliament.

    It is clear that there is no new money for a 7 day routine GP service and the small amount that will be syphoned from elsewhere will only help a small minority of practices deemed to be struggling (despite the fact that we all are).

    The PAs and pharmacists will be too few in number to make any difference for some years to come. The plans to import several hunded (or so) PAs from the USA immediately will barely dent the workload of the 10,000 practices in the UK (as there would be les than 1WTE PA for each practice).

    So , I say we just wait. The next round of annual GP contract negotiations will be coming up. Hunt will want to push 7 day working as he has promised the UK public but he hasn't offered anything that will make us take it. The pressure will mount on him to keep his job.

    If no deal is struck he has 3 options : 1. impose a contract or 2. offer better terms and conditions hoping that we accept or 3. do nothing and let the GP decline continue slowly

    If Hunt picks option 1 many of us will resign (for RLEP options) within the days and weeks that follow making 7 day working ( and Hunt keeping his job) less of a possibility.

    If he picks option 2 we should really turn the screw for better terms or default to our response to option 1.

    If he picks option 3 the status quo is maintained and GPs will continue to leave for RLEP options making 7 days working impossible as he won't be able to replace GPs faster than they will leave.

    So, for the first time in years, I'm actually looking forward to the GP contract negotiations as this year it should be a real headache for Hunt! The worst he can do is impose 7 day working in a new contract. For many of us (who already feel that this job is no longer worth the stress and falling pay) it would be the simple nudge that we need to exit for RLEP options.

    In the immortal words of Dirty Harry (1971):
    you've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

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  • Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing the song of angry men?

    the time is coming

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  • Old is not Gold

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  • £10 million. Peanuts. P&&sing in the wind!
    Hunt doesn't get it. I don't believe a word that he says.

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  • As said it unfortunately looks like the personal care offered by the NHS GP is being substituted for faceless maga surgeries with locums or private clinics for those who want what used to be free. We must just ensure that the public knows the government has created this tragedy by working us to death, pushing us too far and treating us like slaves rather than well educated professionals.

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  • Dear Mr hunt. THIS is what WE should be doing :

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