The chair of the RCGP has written to CCGs to urge them to put money they receive through the Better Care Fund and the Government’s new ‘named GP’ scheme into general practice.
In the letter, sent today, Dr Maureen Baker said the two new pots of funding could inject ‘much-needed and long-overdue investment’ into general practice and other wrap-around services delivered in the community.
The RCGP said it has assurance from NHS England that CCGs can use money from the Better Care Fund – the £3.8 billion of Government funding to support development of integrated services – to commission services from general practice.
The College also said CCGs should use the £5 per patient they are supposed to allocate in order to secure improved services for vulnerable older to support GPs to deliver the ‘named, accountable GP’ initiative due to start under the 2014/2015 GP contract.
The call comes as part of the RCGP campaign ‘Put patients first: Back general practice’ campaign, which is lobbying for the share of the NHS budget spent on general practice to be increased to 11% by 2017.
According to the RCGP, funding of general practice has reached an all-time low of 8.5% of the NHS budget, compared with 10.95% eight years ago, despite demands on GPs increasing from 300 million consultations in 2008 to an estimated 340 million today.
Dr Baker said: ‘A chronic lack of investment in general practice is compromising patient care across the whole NHS. As we approach a new financial year, CCGs will have a vital opportunity to provide general practice with the boost in resources it needs to drive improvements in patient care.
‘Two upcoming initiatives – the Better Care Fund and funding to support additional services to improve care for vulnerable people – are mechanisms through which CCGs can and should invest in general practice in their local areas.’
She added: ‘We understand that resources are tight across the NHS and CCGs are facing the difficult challenge of ensuring proper investment in a range of services whilst balancing an extremely tight budget.
‘In the context of an ageing population with patients increasingly living with multiple conditions, we believe there is a strong case for investing in the generalist skills that GPs and their teams provide. We are campaigning for a wider shift of investment towards the front line of care in the community to help reduce the burden on hospitals and the NHS as a whole.’
NHS England recently hinted that it too would be looking at how the Better Care Fund could be ‘redirected’ to boost general practice.