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GPs overlooked as Government finds hundreds of millions to bail out hospitals

Hospital trusts will be handed £335m to deal with urgent winter pressures, while general practice failed to get a mention in the Autumn Budget statement.

Today’s announcement saw Chancellor Philip Hammond pledge £6.3bn in new funding for the NHS by the end of this Parliament, including £2.8bn for the day-to-day running of the service over the next three years.

He said this would include ‘£350m immediately to allow trusts to plan for this winter’, which the Treasury later clarified was rounded up from an actual figure of £335m.

The budget further pledged £3.5bn of capital funding by 2022/23 ‘to ensure patients receive high quality, integrated care and improve efficiency and productivity’.

In a summary, the Treasury said this will include:

  • £2.6bn for the NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships;
  • £700m to support turnaround plans in the trusts facing the biggest challenges, and to tackle the most urgent and critical maintenance issues, and;
  • £200m to support efficiency programmes.

Delivering his budget speech to Parliament, the Chancellor said the new money was found in response to a Government acknowledgement that the service is under pressure.

But it comes as local winter plans this year already focus heavily on easing pressure on secondary care rather than primary care.

This included trusts already receiving £100m to place GPs in A&E ‘streaming services’ in every hospital this winter.

And RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard expressed disappointment that GPs were overlooked for the winter bailout.

She said: ‘The Chancellor has recognised the need for additional funding for the NHS to cope this winter – but it’s very disappointing that he has overlooked the increased pressures that GPs and our teams will be under, and the role general practice plays in alleviating pressures on our colleagues in secondary care.

‘As we told him in our letter ahead of the budget, the entire health service is struggling to cope with ever-increasing levels of demand – and as winter approaches, this will only be intensified.

‘We certainly do not begrudge our hospital colleagues more investment to cope with this – but the vast majority of NHS patient contacts are made in general practice, and we deserve our fair share of any funding to help us cope this winter as well.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey was still hopeful that GPs would see a share of the new funding announced.

He told Pulse: ‘We made our case very clear that it is essential that general practice and the pressure that general practice is under is recognised and that we get the necessary resources to resolve the crisis that we currently face.’

But BMA chair, and former GPC chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the budget was ‘a missed opportunity to provide vital support for NHS’.

He said: ‘The NHS is facing the toughest period in its history and today’s budget offers little respite. The extra funding promised may ease some short-term pressures, but it falls far short of addressing the serious, long-term funding problems facing the NHS and doesn’t plug the funding black hole identified by the NHS’ own leaders.’

NHS England chairman Sir Malcolm Grant suggested the funding was not sufficient to avoid a debate about what the NHS can deliver to patients going forward.

He said: ‘The extra money the Chancellor has found for the NHS is welcome and will go some way towards filling the widely accepted funding gap.

‘However, we can no longer avoid the difficult debate about what it is possible to deliver for patients with the money available. The NHS England board will need to lead this discussion when we meet on [30 November].’

Please note – this originally said £6.3m and £2.8m in the second paragraph. This was changed on 8 February 2018 to £6.3bn and £2.8bn