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NHS chief rejects GPC claim support package is ‘weak on immediate help’

Exclusive NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens has admitted his rescue deal for general practice will not be ’a magic wand’ for general practice, but has denied claims that it lacks immediate support.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse discussing the General Practice Forward View, Mr Stevens defended the package, saying that was ‘just the real world’, that not all the measures could be rolled out at once.

But he said he understood that, in light of the last decade of defunding, GP practices would be ‘cynical’ about the rescue deal until they had seen how it translates into a real improvement.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse last week that the threat of mass resignations still remains, as the Forward View was ’weak in terms of immediate help’.

But Mr Stevens pointed to several schemes starting as soon as possible, including £16m of resilience funding to be handed out to struggling practices from the summer adding to the existing £10m programme.

He said: ‘It’s perfectly understandable that practices are often cynical. The real test will be how the report is turned into action, so people can feel the difference. There are some things we want to get on with as soon as we can, but others have to wait either because of the workforce phasing or because our funding growth is phased over five years… So, it’s not a magic wand, but nor is it the never-never.’

The scheme to parachute rescue teams into at-risk surgeries, offering specialist help with staff, finances and IT, announced last year as part of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’, was criticised for taking over six months to materialise.

But Mr Stevens said: ‘We’ve made a start with identifying the first seven or eight hundred practices that might benefit from that [and we have] now got the ability to expand that much faster [and] more than double the size of that support in 2016/17. There was an initial £10m earmarked for that [and] we’re putting another £16m on top of that for this year.’

He added that ’as soon as we agree with the profession what would be most helpful for practices that are under most strain’ then ’the funding is there [and] that can happen this year’.

What are the immediate measures?

NHS England chief executive said there were a number of immediate measures outlined in the Forward View for 2016/17. He listed: