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£400m ‘winter money’ allocation could boost GP funding

NHS England has advised commissioners to spend part of this year’s £400m ‘winter money’ allocation on extending primary care services.

A guidance document to local commissioners listed ‘additional capacity for primary care’ as a ‘core aspect’ that they must include in their planning for the winter season to help reduce pressure on A&E departments.

The Department of Health has allocated a further £150m from its wider budget, to help commissioners prepare and plan for winter, NHS England said. This is in addition to the £250m that was already allocated for the 2014/15 winter season.

The accompanying guidance said comissioners’ plans, which need to be submitted to NHS England by 30 July, should include outlines for how they intend to extend primary care capacity.

It said: ‘Additional capacity for primary care [should be] part of local integrated strategies for supporting out-of-hospital care and wider community services. This should include seven-day working across the whole system… This should also extend to schemes relating to proactive care and avoiding unplanned admissions.’

Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of NHS operations and delivery, said: ‘Planning early was one factor that helped support the success of last winter. Getting the money earlier than ever before will help local NHS and care services build in extra resilience where it’s needed most. This year we are asking local leaders to include planned care in their preparations to ensure year round resilience. This is good news for patients and good news for the NHS.’

Meanwhile, ahead of NHS England’s board meeting today, chief executive Simon Stevens said commissioners can use the allocation on any care services in ‘whatever proportion’.

He said: ‘Since the last board meeting we have allocated an additional £400 million to support urgent and emergency whole-system performance. While the quantum is similar to last year, we have responded to feedback and made three key changes this year. First, we are distributing the money far earlier to allow better planning. Second, we are apportioning the bulk of the cash on a ‘fair shares’ basis geographically. Third, we are being explicit that the extra allocation can be used to fund acute, community health, primary care, mental health or social care services in whatever proportion will make greatest impact locally.’

It comes as a Pulse investigation found that primary care was given only 7% of the 2013/14 winter money allocation.