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GP funding reduced by 2.3% last year despite overall increase in DH spend

The Government’s spending on GP services appeared to decline by 2.3% last year compared with the previous year, according to figures released by the Department of Health.

According to DH annual accounts, published yesterday, total spend on GMS, PMS and non-GMS GP services was £7.55bn in 2013/14, compared with £7.73bn in 2012/13.

This comes despite the overall DH spend rising by 2.6%, including increased spending on bailing out hospital trusts and buying healthcare services from non-NHS providers, which topped £10bn for the first time.

It comes after NHS England board papers published in May revealed that it had made savings on primary care costs despite recording a huge overspend overall, but NHS England claimed it was not possible to directly compare its accounts to legacy PCT accounts.

A Pulse investigation has shown that over 100 practices are at risk of having to close down due to factors such as the withdrawal of MPIG and PMS reviews as well as growing problems with recruiting GPs. This week, Pulse launched a petition urgently calling for the DH to step in and stop GP practice closures.

GP leaders said that the DH figures showed a lack of regard for the increased workload faced by GPs amid dwindling resources.

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Liverpool LMC chair Dr Rob Barnett said: ‘What this might be suggesting is that yet again the spending on GP services is going down while spending on secondary care services is going up, while actually the workload that GPs and their teams are having to deal with appears to be rising year on year.

‘So we are being expected to cope with more and more with less and less funding. That doesn’t sound quite right. If those figures are correct, then clearly the Department of Health doesn’t value what GPs are doing and isn’t taking our concerns about what is going on seriously.’

Dr Barnett added that the increased spend on non-NHS healthcare services ‘fits in with this idea of moving services into the private sector. It is all very interesting stuff and for those that were shroud-waving since the Health and Social Care Act 2012, it will just add a little bit more fuel to the fire.’

The RCGP and BMA are running parallel campaigns for the Government to increase spend on GP services. The RCGP’s ‘Put patients first: Back general practice’ campaign is calling for the overall spend of the NHS budget on GP services to rise from around 7-8% to 11% by 2017. Meanwhile, the BMA’s ‘Your GP Cares’ campaign aims to relieve unsustainable financial and workload pressures on GPs.

Despite the figures occurring in the department’s own accounts, the DH referred to NHS England to comment.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Due to differences in the coding of spend, it is not possible to make direct comparisons between NHS England accounts and PCT accounts. However, in late autumn, a comprehensive document “Investment in General Practice Report” will be published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which will outline all general practice spend.’