The BMA and RCGP have called for an ‘urgent’ extension to GP Covid funding beyond the end of March, ahead of this week’s Budget announcement.
In a joint letter to the Chancellor, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey and RCGP council chair Professor Martin Marshall said funding currently available is ‘spread very thinly’.
In November, NHS England announced a new £150m pandemic fund to run ‘until March’ to help GPs ‘remain open and accessible’ while vaccinating the population against Covid.
And in January, PCN clinical director funding was quadrupled from 0.25 whole-time equivalent to 1 WTE in recognition of the workload involved with the vaccination programme – also until March.
The joint letter, sent last week and seen by Pulse, says the Government must ‘urgently invest in general practice at next month’s Budget’, which comes at a ‘crucial stage’ in the pandemic.
It said: ‘While vaccination of the first nine priority cohorts is not expected to be completed until at least Easter and the Government’s aim is now to vaccinate every adult over the age of 18 by the end of July, the clinical director funding and the £150 million/£30m per month Covid Capacity Fund are currently only available up to the end of March, and are spread very thinly for multiple purposes.
‘We are clear that these funds must be extended and further funding be provided to enable general practice to continue to deliver an effective and rapid vaccination programme, alongside continuing to deliver routine services to patients in need.’
The letter added that nationally-funded PPE must continue to be provided for general practice ‘for as long as it remains recommended’, as well as ‘sufficient and sustained investment’ in the GP workforce and estate.
It said: ‘We urgently need the Government to deliver on its promise for 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 other staff in general practice to enable us to effectively manage the impact of Covid-19, on top of long-term NHS pressures.
‘While Health Education England received a £260 million spending uplift through November’s Comprehensive Spending Review, this falls far short of what is required to meet all the necessary commitments, including sustainably funding the expansion of GP training agreed in the 2020 GP contract, which alone is forecasted to cost £181 million. Government must ensure that HEE has the funding it needs to deliver on commitments to expand the GP and wider general practice workforce. ‘
It added: ‘Additional investment in the primary care estate and digital infrastructure will also be needed to capitalise on this expanding workforce, by ensuring they have sufficient facilities to meet patient needs.’
In December, GP leaders warned that dividing the £150m Covid-19 fund evenly between practices is the only fair way to provide access to the promised additional resources.
Conditions attached to the funding include practices returning activity to ‘at least prior levels’ and making ‘significant progress on learning disability health checks’.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government announced in December that GPs in Scotland would receive a one-off £500 ‘thank you’ in recognition of their work during the pandemic this financial year.