The Treasury is set to invest £1 billion to ‘modernise’ GP surgeries over four years as part of an overall £2bn investment in the NHS, chancellor George Osborne has said.
Mr Osborne told the BBC that the money, which is derived from huge fines slapped on misbehaving banks, will be invested in tranches over a four-year period, and is intended to lead to a ‘permanent improvement’ in GP services.
It is intended to support NHS England’s five-year view, which outlined plans for GP surgeries to grow and employ specialists, as well as hospitals employing GPs.
There is little information about how practices will receive the money as yet, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to make a further statement in Parliament today.
The BBC reported that a new fund will make £300m a year available (£250m in England and the rest in the devolved nations), totalling £1.2bn over four years. The BBC reported that this was new money for GPs to ‘invest in their facilities and develop a wider range of care and treatment outside hospitals’.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Osborne said he had met with NHS chief executive Simon Stevens the previous day, and that the £2 billion announced for the NHS is a down payment on NHS England’s five-year plan, as announced last month in the Five Year Forward View.
Mr Osborne said: ‘Because we have a strong economy and we’ve got the public finances under control, we can afford to put £2 billion into the frontline of the NHS across the UK.
‘I can tell you we can go further and use those fines that have been paid by the banks for a permanent improvement in GP services.
‘This is a down-payment on the NHS’s own long-term plan and it shows you can have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.’
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warmly welcomed the announcement.
He said: ‘The chancellor’s announcement could, if delivered properly and in co-operation with GPs, begin to tackle the problems facing GP premises. This is something that GPC have pushed hard for and is built on the guarantee we secured during our recent contract negotiations where the government committed to developing a specific strategy for GP premises.
‘We will now seek to work with NHS England to ensure this funding is spent appropriately and to begin to enable GPs and their staff to work in fit for purpose facilities, while we continue to point out other pressing issues, including unsustainable workload and the growing workforce crisis in general practice.’
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘We know times are tight, but the economy is now growing. Sustaining a high quality health service in the years ahead will therefore require both challenging new efficiencies and genuine new investment. That’s the case I’ve been making on behalf of the NHS to government, and today they’ve listened and responded with the funding we need for next year to sustain frontline NHS services and kick-start transformation.’