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NHS England ‘ahead of target’ on GP funding rise plans with £580m boost

NHS England is ‘ahead of target’ to increase GP funding, it has claimed, amid an annual rise last year of £580m.

Official data released today showed that GP funding increased by 3.9% last year, rising to a total of £10.8bn in 2017/18.

NHS England said this marked the fifth annual consecutive real-terms increase to general practice funding and put it ‘ahead of target’ on its GP Forward View pledge for general practice to receive £12bn a year by 2020.

But the BMA said the figure was ‘potentially misleading’ because it included funding for drug reimbursements and other initiatives like GP services in A&E.

NHS England highlighted data from the NHS Digital report including:

  • Investment in GPFV-funded programmes totalled £511m in 2017/18. This is £125m more than the £386m spend in 2016/17.
  • £160m invested through the Estates and Technology Fund, a 17% increase from the previous year with nearly £400m total extra investment in the last three years in things like new consulting rooms, bigger buildings to house a wider range of staff and facilities for treatments like minor surgery.
  • Over £144m invested in improving access to general practice services for patients including offering more appointments – an 18% increase from the previous year. In addition, all local clinical commissioning groups have also produced plans to set aside at least £171m (£3 per head) over 2017/18 and 2018/19 to support GP practice transformation – and £83m has already been invested during 2017-18.
  • Over £77m invested in programmes to expand the general practice workforce including more health professionals like clinical pharmacists that work alongside GPs, sharing some of their workload and supporting patients. This is a 62% funding increase from the previous year.

NHS England’s acting director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘GPs are at the heart of the NHS and the sustained, and significant general practice funding increases in each of the past five years are helping general practice respond to the rapidly growing needs of an expanding and aging population.

‘As part of the NHS long-term plan we will be recruiting more trainee doctors, widening people’s access to appointments and continuing to integrate GP surgeries with mental health, community and hospital services.’

However the BMA said NHS England’s £10.8bn figure actually translated to an overall funding figure for 2017/18 of £10.2bn when excluding funding including drug reimbursements and GPs in A&E departments.

And, although still a rise on the previous year, the BMA said the funding increase was not sufficient. 

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘While it is positive to see an increase in investment, it is still not enough to ensure the sustainability of general practice and its capacity to meet the growing needs of patients.’

He continued: ‘NHS England should also be clear that today’s headline figure is not reflective of the money reaching practices and their patients – as it also includes drug reimbursement and other initiatives including services in A&E departments. Potentially misleading the public in such a way is not acceptable.

‘Today’s real investment figure of £10.2bn represents 8.1% of the NHS budget going to general practice – falling £3.6bn short of the BMA’s target of 11%.’ 

The £2.4bn GP Forward View rescue plan for general practice was ‘on track’ two years after it was announced, NHS England told Pulse earlier this year.

But BMA’s analysis of progress against the plan, published in June, claimed 600 practices were at the risk of closure because current funding for general practice was £3.7bn short of its target of 11% of the NHS budget.

And, last month, the RCGP called for an ‘urgent overhaul’ of the GP Forward View, including a further £2.5bn investment in general practice each year to maintain patient safety.