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GPC warns uncertainty over practice funding is impacting on patients

GPC has warned uncertainty over future funding is preventing GPs from planning services and is impacting on patient care, in a letter sent to the profession.

The letter calls for ‘absolute clarity’ from NHS England on the plans to move to more equitable funding of English GP practices from next year, which will see the MPIG scrapped and GMS and PMS practices move to the same baseline funding by 2022.

In the letter to GPs, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman warned that practices will not be able to commit to any long-term investment until further details are provided of the plans, first unveiled by the Department of Health last year.

It also said it was urging NHS England to put an ‘immediate halt’ to local PMS reviews ‘until a fair process has been centrally determined in discussion with the GPC’.

Dr Buckman wrote: ‘With less than a year to go before these changes are put into place, GPs deserve to have absolute clarity about the Government’s intentions so they can plan their services.

‘Unfortunately, despite the Government having had many months to consider these proposals, and despite repeated requests for clarity and reassurance from the BMA’s GPC, the profession has not been given any certainty at all.

‘Most worryingly of all, the Government has failed to reassure us that PMS and GMS contracts will be treated equitably and as a whole or that the proposals will not reduce existing funding in primary medical services.

He added: ‘The Government and NHS England must realise that practices will not be able to make any long-term investment decisions, such as recruiting more medical or nursing staff until they know exactly what will happen to their funding.

‘The longer this uncertainty continues the bigger impact this will have on our patients. I will write to you again as soon as I have more information.’

The GPC had agreed to the move to more equitable funding in last year’s contract negotiations with NHS Employers but had negotiated a number of guarantees in return, including that the money taken from PMS and MPIG practices should be redistributed within general practice.

But Dr Buckman said: ’Not one of these conditions has been met by the Government’s ill-considered proposals. They have had plenty of time since the imposition “consultation” to work out what they want to do and GPs must therefore assume that they are planning to embark on a series of changes some of which will be unpalatable for some practices.’

As Pulse reported last month, GP practices in England that are heavily reliant on the MPIG will have to get by without any special measures to protect their viability when the phasing out of the correction factor begins next year. A Pulse investigation could also reveal that over half of PMS practices have already had their funding reviewed in the last two years.

NHS England has said the next steps of the equitable funding review remain themselves under review, with no deadline set for when GPs will have more clarity.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are committed to working with the profession to ensure a fair and equitable approach. We will want to provide greater clarity for GP practices as early as possible whilst making sure the process is fair and robust.’

‘We are committed to the principle of equitable funding across PMS and GMS practices. NHS England is undertaking further work designed to work out how to put these principals into practice.’