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GP funding not enough to realise Government strategy, council warns

Local government leaders have told health secretary Jeremy Hunt that Government plans for general practice ‘at scale’ will fail without more funding.

Oxford County Council called on Mr Hunt to urgently review money going towards general practice, after a number of local practices were recently forced to close.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, who chairs the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), also complained that the region had received only £2m from the general practice infrastructure fund, despite having applied for £50m towards local projects.

She said this risked undermining NHS Oxfordshire CCG’s plans to adopt Department of Health plans for practices to merge or federate to care for populations of 30,000-50,000.

In a letter to the health secretary, Ms Constance said: ‘Whilst the [CCG] has a proposed framework for managing these pressures, including a new model of primary care at scale (i.e. surgeries operating with patient lists of 30-50,000), this will rely on investment in physical infrastructure, improvements in technology and increased capacity within the primary care workforce.

‘Without a significant increase in the funding for general practice across Oxfordshire, the committee questions the viability of this plan and has grave concerns about the impact of transformation proposals on local people and services.’

The DH responded pointing to last year’s GP Forward View plan for investing in general practice.

A spokesperson said: ‘GPs are the absolute bedrock of the health service and this Government has made a real-terms investment of £2.4 billion into the sector to improve care and deliver better access across the week.’

But Oxfordshire LMC chair Dr Prit Buttar said: ‘It’s really hard to find out where the money from the GP Forward View has gone, my LMC is not alone in this.

‘One is increasingly of the opinion that most of the money in the GPFV is going to prove to be a bit illusory and won’t actually turn up, or else just moved from an existing pot to a new one.’

Recent GP practice closures in Oxfordshire included North Bicester Surgery, which closed because the withdrawal of MPIG funding made it ‘financially unviable’, leaving 4,500 patients having to find new practices and partners facing ‘financial ruin’.

Pulse also recently revealed that only 5% of the £1bn Estates and Technology Transformation Fund (ETTF) has been spent by NHS England on improving GP premises, two years after it was first announced.