Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will fail to deliver this year on his promise to increase the proportion of funding going into general practice, despite the 3.2% funding uplift for practices, a Pulse analysis has revealed.
NHS England budget allocations have revealed that from April, general practice will receive only 7.23% of the NHS budget – down from this year’s share of 7.31%.
This is despite the health secretary promising to increase the proportion of funding received by general practice and both the GPC and RCGP pushing for the proportion of spending on primary care to increase to at least 11%.
But the health secretary’s promise is likely to be fulfilled by 2020/21, as funding increases will lead to the proportion of funding received by general practice increasing to 7.72%, from 7.31% in 2015/16.
In a statement on the increase in funding for general practice in December, NHS England said: ‘Spending on GPs and primary medical care services will grow in real terms at a higher rate than for other health services, with an extra 4%-5.4% cash funding every year for five years.’
Mr Hunt reiterated this claim earlier this year, when announcing that a new package to support general practice was being developed. He said: ‘I want to increase the proportion of funding going into general practice, so with NHS England we are now promising to invest 4-5% more per year in general practice for the rest of this Parliament on top of the extra funding CCGs will put into primary care.’
But NHS England increased the annual funding given to general practice by £310m from April, representing a 4.22% rise, which is way below the 5.45% increase to NHS funding. Much of the new funding given to the NHS was being spent on a £1.8bn sustainability fund for struggling hospitals, while ‘specialised care’ received a 7% increase in funding.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘Despite the commitment to a 4% increase, based on these figures the reality appears to be that NHS England’s pledge to invest in general practice does not appear to take us any further forward and could even be taking us backwards.
‘General practice will not survive if all we receive are the crumbs from the secondary and specialised care table, instead we need a real commitment and delivery of fairer share of the NHS budget.’
Mr Hunt is due to announce his new ‘package’ of measures to support general practice, but after the £220m uplift, the Pulse analysis shows he only has £90m to play with.
An NHS England spokesperson said that there was £75m of additional funding for other projects in primary care not included in these figures.
The spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Our December funding plans set out a rise in targeted primary care spending of around one-quarter over five years. It’s wrong to think funding shares are planned to fall next year, because in addition to the investments already agreed, further support to primary care services will be available through other budgets, including from the new models of care programme and capital funding from the Primary Care Transformation Fund.’
How much could Hunt’s ‘package’ contain?
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The 4% uplift announced by NHS England late last year was heralded by NHS managers, and even some GPs. It meant an increase of £310m to the annual budget of general practice.
Last week, the GPC and the Government announced that £220m of this would go towards the 3.2% funding uplift for practices, which is meant to translate to a 1% increase in pay for all GPs.
It is thought that the remaining £90m will go towards the health secretary’s new package of measures to support general practice, which was planned for this month – although DH sources say it may be delayed until next month.