Exclusive The health secretary’s promised ‘package of measures’ to ease the pressures on general practice has been delayed after wrangling over the size of the promised funding.
Pulse has learnt from insiders that the Department of Health has proposed a £110m rescue package of measures for GPs, including a refreshed retainers scheme and more than 100 ‘golden hellos’ to tempt GP trainees to work in hard-to-recruit areas.
The GPC refused to confirm the amount that has been discussed with DH officials, but told Pulse that they were pushing for a much larger investment to ease the pressures on general practice in England.
The wrangling comes after a disastrous ‘new deal’ for general practice last year that was widely criticised by GPs as a massive over-sell.
Jeremy Hunt said in January that he would announce the new package of support for general practice in January saying he wanted to do more to ‘support the profession’.
He promised that it would be discussed with the RCGP and the GPC and released in February, but it has been delayed until later this month or April.
Pulse revealed last month that despite Mr Hunt saying the £220m allocated to uplift practice funding by 3.2% next month was ‘just the start’, there is just £90m left in the pot for the health secretary’s package.
Anonymous sources close to negotiations told Pulse the Government’s offer for the rescue package was currently around £110m. This may also include rebadged money from the next wave of the Prime Minister’s seven-day access pilots.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey refused to comment on the £110m figure, but said that he thinks the sticking point in negotiations is ‘money’. He said: ‘The package keeps being delayed and we are not quite sure when it is going to be announced.
‘I suspect it is going to be money [holding it up]. Have they got enough money to do what GPs and practices are now expecting of them?’
Asked how much funding is required, he said he ‘did not want to put a figure on it’ but the GPC has been continually pushing for general practice to receive 11% of NHS spend, as it was ten years ago.
He added: ‘A hundred million is not going to go anywhere… We have seen them find billions of pounds for hospital trusts that are in deficit – well, general practice is in deficit effectively to a similar degree, and needs that comparable resource.’
GP executive member Dr Brian Balmer said that anyone hoping the Government was negotiating the rescue deal with the GPC was ‘quite mistaken’.
He said: ’We have spoken to them briefly about what they’re trying to do, and we’re trying to raise another meeting. But we are not negotiating a new package for general practice. Which is a bit sad actually, but we’re not.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said they could not comment on speculation on what the package would contain.
What is happening with GP funding?
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The Government is insisting it is pumping more money into primary care, with an announcement of a 4.5% year-on-year funding increase until 2020/21.
But despite this pledge, a Pulse analysis shows the actual proportion of funding to primary care has dropped this year from 7.31% to 7.23%, as the majority of the extra funding (£1.8bn) is being used to bail out hospital trusts in financial difficulty.
But the health secretary’s promise is likely to be fulfilled by 2020/21, as funding increases will lead to the proportion of funding received by general practice increasing to 7.72%, from 7.31% in 2015/16.