The Government will spend £100m on GP triage in A&E departments, it has announced today.
Laying out the Spring Budget, chancellor Philip Hammond said the funding would become available before next winter.
Mr Hammond also announced an additional £2bn to be spent on social care for the next three years and £325m towards implementing Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
He told Parliament: ‘The social care package I have announced today will help to free up beds by easing discharge of elderly patients.
‘That is one of the two big pressures on our hospitals.
‘The other is inappropriate A&E attendances by people of all ages.
‘Experience has shown that onsite GP triage in A&E departments, can have a significant and positive impact on A&E waiting times.
‘I am therefore making a further £100m of capital available immediately for up to 100 new triage projects at English hospitals in time for next winter.’
But BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘The crisis in the NHS doesn’t stop at the hospital door – our A&E’s are struggling because of an overstretched system. Having GPs in A&E won’t reduce admissions – if anything this could have the effect of attracting more patients to hospitals.
‘The Government also needs to explain how it will fund and recruit GPs to work on site at hospitals when there already aren’t enough to meet the needs of the public.
‘Many are already working in practices with permanent vacancies which they are unable to fill, despite government promises at the last election to recruit 5,000 more doctors into general practice.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We feel that the best place for GPs is working with patients in their communities to provide high quality general practice and the money just announced for new triage systems in emergency departments would achieve more if most was spent shoring up general practice so we can deliver more care and services, and in doing so alleviate pressures right across the NHS.’
Dr Onkar Sahota, Labour London Assembly spokesperson for health said the funding announced for social care was ‘a drop in the ocean in terms of the increasing need and pressure that councils are under’.
He added: ‘As for the chancellor’s commitment to put more GPs into A&Es, he seems to be oblivious that we are already facing a severe shortage of qualified GPs, particularly in London.’
Londonwide LMCs medical director Dr Elliott Singer criticised the budget for providing ‘nothing new to GP practices’ as ‘resource and workforce challenges continue to stretch patient care’.
He added: ‘The biggest challenge GPs and their teams in London face is declining morale resulting from increasing workload not matched by increases in workforce. We have seen massively increased demand at the doors of all our general practices as community, social and mental health services which used to support GPs have been dramatically reduced, and a small increase in social care spending goes no way far enough to halt this decline.
The number of GPs in England dropped last year, with the number of GP full-time equivalents including trainees faling to 34,495, down by 96 on September 2015, and this was echoed in a drop in the headcount of GPs.
What does the budget pledge for the NHS?
Accident & Emergency (A&E) capital investment
‘Recognising the particular pressures in A&E, the government will provide an additional £100 million to the NHS in England in 2017‑18 for capital investment in A&E departments.
‘This will enable Trusts to invest in measures to help manage demand on A&E services and ensure that patients are able to access the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.
‘For example, the funding will allow for better assessment of patients when they arrive at A&E and increase the provision of on-site GP facilities.’
Sustainability and Transformation Plans
‘The Government recognises the progress that local NHS leaders have made, working collaboratively with partners, to develop local Sustainability and Transformation Plans.
‘These local plans are an important part of the NHS’s commitment to deliver more effective services to patients. The government will invest £325 million over the next three years to support the local proposals for capital investment where there is the strongest case to deliver real improvements for patients and to ensure a sustainable financial position for the health service.
‘In the autumn, a further round of local proposals will be considered, subject to the same rigorous value for money tests. Investment decisions will also consider whether the local NHS area is playing its part in raising proceeds from unused land, to reinvest in the health service.’
Source: The Treasury