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Vulnerable practices receiving £10k lump sums as NHS managers ‘rush’ out funding

Exclusive NHS managers are ‘rushing’ funding to GP practices to help them stave off closure, in a bid to spend up to £16m worth of money by the April deadline.

Pulse can reveal that NHS England area teams have been giving practices lump sums worth £10,000 and more, after a commitment to spend the money by the end of this month.

GP leaders say that the funding is being ‘rushed’ after NHS England had originally been accused of stalling.

But NHS England said that it was ‘perverse’ that they were being criticised for getting the funding to practices both too quickly and too slowly.

The £16m ‘resilience funding’ was announced as part of the GP Forward View last April, and was designed to support vulnerable practices.

The RCGP ‘red rated’ NHS England’s progress on aiding vulnerable practices earlier this year, upon finding that only £2.5m of the fund had been spent by NHS regions by January 2017.

But Pulse can reveal that area teams are now rushing to get funding to GP practices, with at times little scrutiny of the bids for funding.

Pulse has learnt:

  • In Stoke, all 14 practices who asked for funding have been given minimum of £10,000 lump sums;
  • Practices in Walsall were given two days to submit bids for funding after the regional team had sat on the funding;
  • In Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, LMC plans to support practices were put on hold after they were unable to pin down the NHS regional team on its plans until mid February;
  • In Doncaster, the LMC was only informed of the nature of the funding in mid January.

Dr Uzma Ahmed, medical secretary of Walsall LMC, told Pulse: ‘We didn’t hear anything from them for five months. Then practices were given a couple of days to decide whether to accept the offer or not.

‘We had six practices who were given approval for funding. Three have not accepted the offer because it was such a rush.’

Dr Dean Eggitt, medical secretary of Doncaster LMC, said that GPs in the region have now been funded to set up a federation, but this has been done in a ‘rush’.

He said: ‘There is some “slippage money” – they haven’t been able to spend it in year, so there is a rush to get rid of it now.’

Dr Eggitt added: ‘Either local areas need to think ahead of time what plans they have in the drawer, or we need to get rid of this preposterous idea of raking back cash at the end of the year.’

But NHS England said that the accusations were ‘perverse’.

A spokesperson said: ‘It’s pretty perverse to be accused of allocating this money both too slowly and too quickly. Instead we’re focussing on ensuring the funding achieves the maximum benefit for both GPs and patients.’

What money has been promised?

NHS England pledged a £10m Vulnerable Practices Fund in 2015 to urgently help practices at the brink of closure. But by January this year, only £6m had been spent.

Last year, a further £40m Practice Resilience Fund was announced in the GP Forward View, £16m of which was to be spent in 2016/17. In January, a report from the RCGP revealed only £2.5m had been spent.

But NHS England’s timetable will see 2,000 GP practices having benefitted from the two funds by the end of this month, it has claimed.