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General practice given just 4% of NHS winter bailout money

GPs were allocated just 4% of the total amount of winter resilience funding given to NHS organisations this year, with the rest going to secondary care.

In mid-December, NHS England released a £20m fund to add extra appointments up until Easter in areas without GP Access schemes, in an effort to ease winter pressures.

However, GP leaders have said the money was ‘far too little’ in comparison with the amount given to hospitals this year.

In the Autumn Budget last year the Chancellor promised an extra £337m in ‘winter funding’ to NHS trusts, while NHS England made an additional £150m available to providers to cover the ‘extra’ costs of winter.

Chair of the BMA’s GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said the £20m pot was ‘variably distributed’, with CCGs that do not have GP Access schemes in their area given priority.

Under the GP access scheme, CCGs give practices £6 per head to open in the evenings and on weekends, with all CCGs expected to offer this money by 2019.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘We were told that if a CCG already had funding for the access scheme the expectation was that they were already offering additional appointments compared with other areas and so this new funding was targeted at those CCGs that didn’t already have that additional capacity available.

He added: ‘Whilst any additional funding to support practices struggling with unsustainable workloads is welcome, compared with the amount found to give to hospitals this was far too little to truly deal with the pressures practices and community bases services are under.’

This comes as GPs have reported being ‘horrendously pressured’ pressured this winter, with GPs experiencing a 78% increase in consultations for flu in one week last month.

NHS England told Pulse that the money was made available to CCGs in mid-December for additional capacity in general practice.

As Pulse reported last week, NHS England has turned down a request from GPC to suspend QOF reporting until the end of March.

When asked why, an NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Instead of tinkering with QOF at this late stage of the year, we are supporting practices with an additional investment of £20m to help primary care manage winter pressures.’

This comes after a Pulse investigation in October found no area had set aside detailed funding for general practice winter pressures.

However since then GPs in Yorkshire and Birmingham were given £700,000 and £375,000 respectively for extra appointments.