Exclusive GPs are being asked to offer more evening appointments this month in a bid to alleviate a potential winter crisis, through money left over from the fund to support seven-day access.
NHS England has allocated money left over from its GP Access Fund – the £150m fund set up by former Prime Minister David Cameron to set up seven-day GP pilot sites – to CCGs and regional area teams.
The Midlands and East NHS region said they were allocated £7.4m by national leaders and have told CCGs to submit plans on how they will offer more evening GP appointments until the end of February.
However, NHS England has been unable to tell Pulse about allocation for other areas.
GP leaders welcomed more money being invested in primary care, but warned this represented rebadged funding that was already in general practice.
A number of CCGs have announced schemes to incentivise practices to offer evening appointments:
- NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG said in a statement that they are ‘currently working with member GP practices to arrange for extra evening GP appointments, having been allocated some additional funding by NHS England’. A spokesperson for the CCG told Pulse that they plan to spend £50,000 on 130 two-hour sessions of appointments across 26 practices.
- The three CCGs in Worcestershire are spending £252,000 for additional evening appointments across all 65 GP practices in the area.
- Dr John Ashcroft, an executive officer at Derby and Derbyshire LMC, said he was alerted to extra funding by an email, with NHS Erewash CCG offering GPs £91 per hour on weekdays and £100 per hour on weekends to take on the extra appointments having previously ‘struggled’ when trying to get GPs to sign up to take on extra sessions.
Simon Evans, locality director for NHS England Midlands and East, said: ‘NHS England provided money across England, weighted by population, for extending access to primary care.
‘CCGs were informed that the money was to be used to increase appointments above the current level of provision for the winter months.’
He added: ‘Across Midlands and East, £7,441,184 was allocated, equating to 42p per estimated registered population.’
In 2016/17 NHS England gave CCGs £6 per patient to commission schemes to provide extended GP access.
A spokesperson from NHS England said: ‘Any residual funding which has not been required by schemes, has been provided to support improving access for patients and strengthening general practice overall resilience in the system.’
He added: ‘NHS England Regions are responsible for deploying this fund in the most effective way; in particular, the first call should be to improve access to general practice in winter.’
The spokesperson also said that NHS England distributed ‘just over £113m’ in 2016/17 to improve access to general practice.
He said: ‘This includes funding for existing GPAF schemes, a number of areas that have been identified across the country to speed up access and for providing additional GP capacity over the winter period.’
However, NHS England would not confirm the total amount spent in each region in England or comment on why there is left over money that is not required by GP Access schemes.
Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association and a GP in Swindon, said he was ‘in favour of moving money out of the Treasury and into general practice’.
But he added: ‘The problem is that most money coming into general practice is money they’ve already nicked off us for doing something else, and they badge it as something else, and then we have to do extra things to get the money when actually what we need is some good core funding.’