GPs set for funding boost as NHS England considers 'redirect' of £3.8bn integrated care funds
Exclusive NHS England are looking ‘very closely’ at how to inject more investment into general practice, including redirecting money from hospitals using a new fund earmarked for more integrated care, says a health minister.
Earl Howe told the Family Doctor Association conference in Nottingham last weekend that NHS managers were looking at how the £3.8bn integrated health and social care budget could be used to help boost investment into primary care.
The new budget – announced by the chancellor George Osborne in his Spending Review in June was to be used to jointly commission services across health and social care by 2015/16.
The DH said the pool will include: £1bn taken from the existing NHS budget; £800m that has already been announced for social care; and £2bn of new money being invested.
Pulse revealed last month that CCGs in the north west of England have applied for funds for GPs to offer routine appointments seven days a week, under radical plans to help ease pressure on A&E services.
Earl Howe said that they were looking at how ‘existing funding can be used up more effectively’ than it is at the moment.
He added: ‘This whole agenda implies the need for more investment in general practice, and I know that NHS England are looking very very closely at that.
‘It is their job as commissioners of general practice and primary care to ensure that proper capacity is there, and that means more bodies on the ground, more GPs, more nurses.’
But he warned that the shift of funds into general practice should not be ‘destabilising’ for the acute sector.
He said: ‘Acute care is very expensive. It’s not always the right thing for the patient. It can lead to a vicious spiral, particularly with elderly patients who leave hospital worse off than when they went in.
‘We have to redirect the money, and the integrated budgets will help in that context. They will involve a conscious effort by both health and social care commissioners to commission the right care for patients and focus on the preventative agenda.’
The health minister revealed that, ‘at a recent roundtable meeting the health secretary referred to the ‘three Cs’ as his vision - C for continuity of care - ensuring patients always know who their GP is and who is accountable for their care, C for control: that services should be tailored for patients with their GP and C for the contract - getting the contracting arrangements right to incentivise out of hospital care.’
Speaking about the move away from the traditional view of a community doctor, he told the conference that, ‘the secretary of state has often spoken about a return to family doctoring. It is essential to retain the best principles of having a family doctor which is: continuity of care.’
Addressing the concerns in the industry regarding increased workload with out-of-hours care responsibilities, he said, ‘ultimately, what we as ministers want is for GPs to feel responsible in the fullest sense for their patients. That doesn’t mean a return to delivering out-of-hours care but it does mean ensuring that care is provided so that patients can have access to the right care.’