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GPs set to receive £25m from DH fund for winter pressures

GPs are set to receive only 3.5% of a £700m funding injection for NHS winter pressures, to improve access to primary care, the Government has suggested.

The Department of Health today announced today that it will add £300m to the £400m it has already put aside to deal with the anticipated peak in seasonal demand this winter.

It estimated that ‘based on innovative solutions being put in place across the country’, £25m would be put in to GP access.

However, GP leaders said that putting money into general practice was the most efficient way of providing care, and CCGs should look to put more money into improving GP access.

The total investment of £700m is said to be ‘one of the most comprehensive winter planning exercises the NHS has ever seen’, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Although the money will be given to CCGs, the DH provided a list of potential investment, which included the hiring of thousands of additional clinical staff, providing up to 2,500 extra hospital beds and support ambulance services to meet the additional demand over winter.

Pulse revealed that last year, 7% of the budget was put into primary care, which commissioning leaders said should be increased this year.

The DH said: ‘Based on the range of innovative solutions being put in place across the country, the Department of Health estimate there is the potential for:

· Up to the equivalent of 1000 extra doctors and 2000 extra nurses (full time equivalent (FTE) positions), including extended hours and new positions;

· Up to 2000 other NHS staff, including physiotherapists, social workers and occupational therapists (FTE positions) including temporary staff, extended hours and new positions;

· Up to 2,500 extra beds both in acute hospitals and also in the community sector;

· Over £25m to increase access to GPs;

· £50m to support ambulances services in a range of ways including additional demand and help them return to meeting the standard as quickly as possible.’

However, Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said that more could be put into general practice.

She said: ‘During the winter, our patients need care more than ever. While we recognise that our hospital colleagues will be under increased pressure, so will GPs and practice teams, who already make 90% of all NHS patient contacts.

‘An extra £25m to help general practice cope with the rising number of patients who will need care over the winter will be put to very good use. We also expect CCGs to have discussions about how more of the funding announced today can be ploughed into general practice, so that we can reduce pressure on hospitals and prevent unnecessary admissions.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that failure to invest in general practice had led to the winter crises in the first place.

He said: ‘This is just a sticking plaster that will do nothing to help heal the deep wound underneath. What is really needed is significant and sustained investment in to core practice funding so that we can take on more GPs and nurses to cope with the rising needs of our patients who need more appointments every day of the year, not just over winter.

‘Failing to invest in general practice has played a major role in getting us to this current crisis and we can no longer survive with just the scraps from the rich man’s table.’

The news comes as the RCGP had earlier called on NHS England to abandon QOF this winter in the event of a major health emergency.

Dr Baker told her organisation’s conference last month that‘radical measures’ would be necessary in the event of a flu epidemic or similar winter emergency, including potentially abandoning the QOF.