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GP funding boost ‘mission critical’ to reduce pressure on A&E, says Hancock

More funding must be allocated to primary care to reduce pressure on A&Es and avoid them being flooded with patients wanting ‘immediate’ access to GPs placed in emergency departments, the health secretary has suggested.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham today, health secretary Matt Hancock said it was ‘mission-critical’ for primary care services to receive more cash as the Government decides how to spend its £20bn extra funding for the NHS, announced earlier this year.

The Government is in the process of drawing up a drawing up a long-term plan for how the money will be spent over the next five years, due to be announced ahead of November’s Autumn budget statement.

During a fringe event at the party conference today, Mr Hancock said he wanted to see ‘much, much more’ of that funding going towards primary and community services  ‘while also ensuring that the secondary acute sector can be stable’.

More integration of services was required ‘in part to try to keep people out of A&E unless they need to be in A&E,’ he said.

The health secretary went on to say that while he supported efforts to see GPs working in A&E – an approach first tested in Luton – ‘we can’t move to a system where everybody goes to A&E because that means you get immediate treatment by a GP’.

He said: ‘I’m a big fan of the Luton model of putting GPs on the front door of A&E so that we can triage out those cases only need a GP, but we can’t move to a system where everybody goes to A&E because that means you get immediate treatment by a GP.

‘So we need much, much more support in the community settings. As we work out how to spend the extra £20bn that’s being put into the NHS over the next five years, getting much, much more of that into community settings, primary and pre-primary is mission critical as far as I’m concerned, while also ensuring that the secondary acute sector can be stable.’

Last year, the Government launched plans to put a GP triage service in every A&E by the end of 2017, replicating a model first adopted in Luton and Dunstable hospital.

However, with some trusts having planning to put up to three GPs in their A&E at any one time, hospital bosses warned that they would not be able to sustain the new services beyond this winter unless they received more funding.

Mr Hancock’s predecessor Jeremy Hunt previously said that the promised long-term funding plan for the NHS must have earmarked funding for boosting primary care capacity.

The £20bn fund, which will be released over the next five years, translates to a 3.4% year-on-year annual funding increase.

However, financial analysis by the Health Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies, suggested the NHS needed at least 3% annual increases not to deteriorate, but 4% in order to be able to put into action NHS England’s ambitious transformation plans.