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Vulnerable GP practices have received less than half of £10m support fund

Exclusive NHS England has spent just £4m of the £10m 'turnaround' fund for vulnerable GP practices at risk of closure almost a year and a half after it was first announced.

The 'vulnerable practice fund' was a key measure – and the only new element – of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s 'new deal' for GPs when it was announced back in July 2015.

An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse that so far 600 practices have benefitted from the fund, out of 900 practices identified under the programme.

NHS England initially identified 800 practices in need, but a Pulse investigation last month only found a handful of areas benefitting from the scheme.

An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse: 'NHS England is currently supporting around 600 of the 900 GP practices identified under the £10m Vulnerable Practice Programme.

'We have spent over £4m on delivering this support so far and local team plans commit the remaining funds by the end of this year.'

But GP leaders, who have already criticised the lack of immediacy of NHS England's support packages, said there was ‘much more to be done’ to support practices at risk.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'There is clearly much more that needs to be done to use the remaining money and provide critically important support to practices in need.

'We will keep up the pressure on NHS England and CCGs to do this.’

But he added that 'it’s good that at long last the much-needed resource in the vulnerable practice fund is being used'.

The fund was intended to be used to parachute in teams of managers and legal support to help practices adopt new ways of working or collaborate at scale.

But Pulse's investigation found that in some areas the most precarious practices had not been able to unpick the red tape in place to access funds. 

This had intially included practices having to match the funding offered to them, but this requirement was scrapped in July.

Since then, NHS England has also announced a £42m Practice Resilience Programme which should invest £16m in 2016/17, as part of the GP Forward View.

It comes as NHS England’s own director of primary care, London GP Dr Arvind Madan, has already admitted that they had not done enough to get financial support ‘out the door’ to practices in trouble.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Surprise surprise.A good way to stoke up cynicism and bad feeling methinks.

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  • Bonuses for the bosses part of which might be channelled back to the Conservative masters during election time.

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  • Practices are closing despite the fund! The red tape to access the fund is beyond most to navigate let alone those that are struggling to keep going. Since 2004 there has been the steady decline in any support for primary care without multiple strings being attached. Hospitals get bailed out by hundreds of millions of pounds that originally earmarked for care in the community and that is done on the back of an envelope calculation. Too big to fail. GP's are expected to just absorb work without funding to help the system. As they are closing the business model must be wrong and not fit for purpose. Having the sound bite of a support fund helps with the press but unless it is properly utilised it remains hot air!

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  • So £4m/600 = £6600 each? Or, about 10 days of a locum.

    Wow. That will really change errrr...nothing.

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  • Biggest obstacle in our patch is regional NHS England director is blocking this being paid to existing and successful support packages, insisting instead of using services that an area team are slowly procuring and no-one wants.

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  • They just don't care about GPs or the patients

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  • It's all part of the plan. As an NHSE manager said at one of the GPFV roadshows down here, "It's not about shoring up practices to carry on." What can be seen about some of the funding streams is that the lion's share is to employ change managers and to have meetings. We need more meetings in the NHS.

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  • Let's get this in perspective. Channel 4 spends £74m on a baking program. We get £10m -we can't even access to shore up GP. If you're not getting the message now change your satellite dish.

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  • The Queen gets £369m to refurb her "struggling palace". Only 37x that for struggling practices . Perhaps we could run OOH from the ballroom.

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  • From what I am hearing, the said "vulnerable practices" are chosen by NHSE and guess what, they are choosing the practices that have closed or capped their lists, rather than those that are truly struggling, with being unable to recruit etc - so the money is being put into the practices that cause NHSE the biggest headache ie NHSE having to manage Assigning patients - If this is being replicated lets all close our list to get help.

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