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Practices ‘could miss out on £760m’ as NHS focuses on hospitals, claims RCGP

Practices could be missing out on hundreds of millions of pounds by 2020 because plans being devised across England by NHS managers are ploughing money into trusts’ deficits, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker will warn today.

In her final speech as chair at the RCGP conference in Harrogate, Dr Baker will cite the analysis by the college that also reveals that CCGs who have taken on responsibility for commissioning GP services have underspent by £33 million on primary care this year.  

Dr Baker will say that the failure to spend on primary care, and vulnerable practices in particular, is a ‘national disgrace’, and that RCGP representatives are ‘struggling against an agenda that is focused on plugging ever increasing hospital deficits’.

The RCGP’s analysis of the secretive ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs) – the blueprints for the future of the NHS being worked up in every region in England – found no evidence that funding was being committed to general practice.

Pulse has already revealed local GP leaders’ concerns about the lack of GP input into local STPs, which are being drawn up between CCGs, NHS England regional offices and local authorities.

NHS England has said that it ‘will not sign off plans unless they support GPs’, and advised STPs that 15-20% of their budget should be allocated to support primary care and general practice by 2020/21.

But the college’s analysis suggested that this potential 20% of funding is not making its way to general practice – amounting to approximately £760m.

Dr Baker will use her speech to call on NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to ensure STP regions start publishing their financial plans, including committing funding to general practice.

She will say: ’The STPs will play a crucial role in shaping the future development of the NHS over the next five years. However, strengthening general practice should be at the heart of what they are about.

’But in many areas RCGP local representatives are struggling against an agenda that is focused on plugging ever increasing hospital deficits.’

She will add: “Based on the limited information about STPs that has been published, very few contain specific pledges to earmark extra funding for general practice. Some barely acknowledge general practice at all.

“If STP plans fail to deliver the funding for general practice – from the Sustainability and Transformation Fund – then the family doctor service stands to lose up to £760m in 2020/21.’

The college has also analysed CCG budgets, published last month, which reveals that they are on track to underspend their funding allocation on general practice by £33m in the current financial year. The RCGP said this represents a ‘double whammy’ for practices. 

The Labour Party has committed to fight STPs which have come to be known as ‘secret plans’, and which Pulse has revealed will see significant cuts in GP surgery numbers as part of moves toward sustainability.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ’We are working hard to relieve pressures on GPs and this includes increasing funding for general practice by £2.4bn a year by 2021 – a 14 percent real-terms increase.

‘This demonstrates our commitment to strengthening GP services and as part of these efforts we have highlighted that local areas, through their Sustainability and Transformation Plans, need to set out how they will further support general practice, both now and in the future.’