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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)

  • These 7 day pilots should refuse to accept the extra funding until NHS England cleans up its act. Come on, lets have some collective action!

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  • @5:56pm are you serious? I find it difficult to believe that you're a GP partner as you don't even understand how the system works!

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  • Vinci Ho

    I am being devious .
    What will stop them from saying ' you are not qualified for the infrastructure funding unless you are providing 7 days opening in your GP premises'????

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  • Vinci, don't cry wolf- they might just hear you:)

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  • Vinci Ho

    The Devils are all over the place already
    Remember ,it is called Darth Vader Dark Force Fund
    I am sure they already have the idea
    Ha ha ha

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  • I'm struggling to see why anyone would take this money anyway. As far as our accountant is concerned if they give you money they will get it back with a lower ground rent, and if they don't you can fund the building throught a ground rent - if it is agreed in the first place. We are probably dispensing with our building (minimal income, large debts and a lot of work) so will not be going for the money.

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  • just more bull glad i'm not a GP partner!
    all you GP partners out there need to sell up, hand in your resignation and become locums. loads more money and less stress.....lets see what the government does about that! LOL

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  • Why am I not surprised that the PM is using money meant for infrastructure for their own means.

    Smoke and mirrors.

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  • Dear Colleagues! Wake up! Do not let such irresponsible projects and spending of tax money (our money) by organizing ourselves to emergency response! The solution: create an association with -says- 30 family doctors, take a 24h permanency day each, so one every 30 days, and a full WE every month, and ask for the money for ourselves!!

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  • sorry, error : if 30 drs, a WE in duty a year and a half is enough! (52weeks)

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