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Independents' Day

GP premises fund raided to boost seven-day access pilots

Exclusive NHS England has raided the GP premises development fund in order to prop up the Prime Minister’s seven-day access pilots, Pulse can reveal.

In the latest example of siphoning of resources from the £1bn infrastructure pledged for improving GP premises over four years, a minister has revealed that £25m will be used to top up funding for the second wave of the GP Access, or Challenge Fund, pilots.

The significant chunk, amounting to 2.5% of the total four-year investment, is being taken out in 2015/16 despite NHS England saying the first year of the infrastructure fund investments would prioritise outstanding GP premises improvement bids.

The second wave of seven-day access pilots are already being funded via £100m investment, following a first wave which cost at least £50m but which has yet to undergo formal evaluation. Although some of that funding has gone towards increasing access in other ways, bids pledging 8am-8pm, seven days a week access were prioritised.

Responding to a parliamentary question, health minister Alistair Burt said: ‘Further funding of £100 million was announced by the Prime Minister on 30 September 2014 for a second wave of schemes and an additional £25 million has since been added from the £1 billion Infrastructure Fund.’

GP leaders reacted with concern to the news, which comes after the Government has already plundered the premises fund for the £10m ‘new deal’ funding for struggling practices and a £15m scheme to employ pharmacists in GP practices.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that it was ‘becoming increasingly fashionable’ to fund Government initiatives from the promised infrastructure fund.

He said: ‘At this rate we run a real risk that there won’t be the money left to resource the desperate need for premises investment.’

Given the Government’s ‘explicit commitment’ to invest significantly more in genereal practice it ‘should be putting up new money for such initiatives, rather than ‘raiding pre-committed resources for premises’, Dr Nagpaul added.

He said: ‘If you need £25m for the Challenge Fund, it needs to be funded with new money.’

Referring to a Pulse investigation which revealed that a quarter of the first wave of seven-day access pilots have cut opening hours amid a lack of demand, Dr Nagpaul added that the whole seven-day access programme should be reassessed so as to not waste taxpayers’ money.

He said: ‘What the Government really should be doing is reassessing the whole Challenge Fund resource and how it’s being used, given evidence from some CCGs that it’s being used in ways that are not meeting patient demand.’

GPC premises lead Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘They made a decent announcement last year and then they start fiddling with it. All we’ve seen recently is spot purchases of this and that, to try and put a band aid on. Some of this [investment] may be entirely worthy, but this suddenly going for another headline instead of addressing the problem is not helping us at all.’

Note: This article was updated at 16.00 on 14 July to reflect that the Department of Health has devolved management of the GP infrastructure fund to NHS England. A previous version referred to ‘the Government’


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Readers' comments (22)

  • You can see where the priorities are.

    Political agenda >>>>>> sustainable general practice

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  • This demonstrates the real choices and consequences of this nonsensical policy. If there is not enough access and a fixed pot of money the answer is to spend current money on more efficient 'in hours' care and sort out OOH funding, but instead government robs capital funding. Scandalous.

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  • Direct action is called for. Use your income tax to fund the premises . After all we're only redirecting government money at source .

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  • What will any of you actually DO about this, other than whinge?

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  • Whinging is valuable. It alerts others, it may act as a brake, it means that politicians know they will get scrutiny, it relieves tension , it induces solidarity and we are probably hardwired to moan about ours lot iit being an intensely human and universal form of expression - so stop whinging 3.22

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  • I agree, whingeing is a useful stress relief. Ask any General, when the troops stop grumbling then thay are about to mutinity.
    It is a way of bonding social groups and it allows the discussion of practical options in a safe environment.

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  • No scrutiny helps.
    NHSE gobbled up 87000 pounds given to it by Redrow developers for Strood Practices two years ago when the housing complex came up in Halling and nobody has seen a trace of the money.
    'Informal consultations' were held with a 'chosen few' Practices but the money vanished into thin year and silence fell.
    Even the ICO could not extricate information from them and the FOI was useless. This is the extent of a tight lipped culture where premises money is concerned. Lack of transparency in NHS is a major destructive element that needs to be tackled.

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  • Sanjeev,
    Look at NHSE's record regarding 'transparency': premises are not the only thing being concealed - routinely.
    The minutes of the Care Data Program Board haven't been published since (grudgingly) they were published for October, November & December last year: CAG (admittedly not NHSE), SCCI and DAAG don't publish the full data applications they have approved (makes life difficult if you want to know what has actually been approved - and who whas been approved to receive it) and so it goes on.
    It's very hard to understand why - in these cases - there is a problem, although I can see that there might be if NHSE was asked to account for the infrastructure fund ;-<
    If all the documentation could be published for data requests considered by the GPES IAG, why can't other advisory groups publish the same information?
    Or was that part of the reason the IAG was terminated before deciding how its functions would be replaced?

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  • I see no problem with this.It's a bit rich to ask taxpayers to pump up the value of private property whose profits are retained wholly by GPs.It's morally disgusting

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  • Oh dear 5.56pm you are confused aren't you? You say you are a GP partner- yes? I presume you work in a surgery made of bricks- yes? Not a tent at all? Or a field or a cave? Well - this may come as a bit of a shock to you- somebody owns the building you work in!!! And do you know and you clearly hadn't realised this they don't let you work there for free! So you better ring them upand tell them that it is "morally disgusting" that you have to pay them rent and see what response you get. Let us all know - do please.

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