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Government toolkit creates commissioning funding ‘lottery’ for GPs

MPs have attacked a Government toolkit used to calculate commissioning budgets after it plunged one GP practice £200,000 into the red, while neighbouring practices were left untouched.

GPs at Gill Medical Surgery in Salford are being forced to cut back on follow-up appointments and examine referrals after the Department of Health's 'fair share' funding toolkit landed the surgery with an £192,000 overspend. 

Labour MP Barbara Keeley, who represents the surgery's consituency, warned that the funding gulf would impact patient care and put extra strain on GPs. Ms Keeley first raised the issue in the House of Commons last month, telling MPs:

‘We could call [this] a lottery within a postcode. The practice in the more deprived area is faced with an apparent overspend of £200,000, [meaning] that GPs have to re-examine referrals and cancel activity for patients, given them an increased workload and potentially having an impact on patients.'

The funding blow hit Gill Medical Surgery after NHS Salford committed to using the 'fair share' toolkit as part of its shift to full practice-based commissioning in April this year. Gill Medical Surgery's budget plummeted under the new funding framework, despite the practice serving a more deprived patient population than neighbouring surgeries.

Dr John Wenham, GP Principal at the Gill Medical Centre, told Pulse: ‘We're happy to be part of PBC, that's fine, but you cannot start with this disproportionate budget.'

'We have a higher deprivation score and we have more patients in lower social classes than the other practices, yet we have been hit really hard. This area is ahead of the game on PBC but there does seem to be a reluctance at looking at our practice's situation.'

NHS Salford defended the toolkit, saying that deprivation is only one of the weightings in the DH toolkit and adding that Gill Medical Practice attracted less money due to having a younger age profile than other practices in the area. 

An NHS Salford spokesperson said: ‘NHS Salford agreed to adopt the Department of Health's fair shares toolkit as the methodology for allocating commissioning budgets to GP practices. There are no plans to revisit this methodology of budget setting.'