NHS England has formally identified over 800 GP practices as vulnerable as part of its work to allocate £10m worth of support funding.
According to NHS England’s official data, the situation is worst in the North Midlands where 115 practices – more than one fifth (22%) of the total – have been identified as struggling.
In the London and South Central (15%) and South West (14%) regions, around a sixth have been identified as practices that could use support funds.
The figure tallies with the BMA’s warning earlier this week that one in ten GP practices is financially unviable and is even more alarming than previous estimations from local figures, which suggested some 600 practices could benefit from the fund.
And because the funding on offer comes with strings – each practice accepting support must match this and spend it towards its CCG’s plan for local general practice reform – the GPC warned that the most vulnerable practices may be unable to make use of the support on offer.
The funding will be used to parachute in support teams, aimed at building ‘longer-term resilience rather than deliver short-term quick fixes’. In many regions this would amount to managerial support to negotiate practice mergers and moves to new care models.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ’Even if you were to identify practices that might benefit from support, would they be willing to accept that bearing in mind they would have to find 50% of the funding? That has to be recognised as a big constraint in being able to support the right practices.’
Conerns were also raised about the size of the funding available, as if all practices were to receive funding in the North Midlands, the £600,000 of the fund allocated to the region would mean each practice would receive just £5,229 if portioned out equally.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We are aware that some GP practices are feeling the pressure of rising patient demand and we continue to work on a wide range of measures aimed at supporting GPs and tackling workload.
’As part of our efforts to boost primary care, we are investing £10m in struggling practices and we will announce more details soon.’
As part of the Stop Practice Closures campaign, Pulse has revealed that 200,000 patients were displaced when their practice folded last year and, earlier this week, the BMA revealed that a survey of 2,830 practices found that 294 practices (10%) regard themselves as financially unsustainable within the next year.