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We have not done enough for vulnerable practices, admits NHS chief

NHS chiefs have not done enough to save struggling practices from closing, the lead on primary care at NHS England has admitted, following a Pulse investigation on the ‘vulnerable practices’ fund.

Dr Arvind Madan, director of primary care at NHS England, told the RCGP annual conference that saving vulnerable practices should be the ‘number one priority’ but conceded money from the Government’s £10m vulnerable practices fund had not been transferred to practices quickly enough.

He added that although the vulnerable practices scheme had been running some time, ‘frankly I don’t think we have done well enough at getting the money out the door to practices that in trouble’.

It comes after Pulse revealed that the 800-plus practices identified as being at risk of collapse by NHS England 10 months ago have received barely any funding

Dr Madan said that the ‘ambition now is to get that [money] out the door to practices by the end of the month’.

He emphasised that NHS England’s ‘first priority in the coming year has to be to stabilise general practice, it has to be stop practices handing back contracts for reasons beyond their control’.

‘Each of those scenarios is a tragedy for patients, for practices, for everybody,’ Dr Madan said.

In addition to the vulnerable practices scheme, Dr Madan stressed that £16m of the total general practice resilience fund of £40m is to be spent this financial year.

He said this meant ‘whatever it takes to keep a practice open and running, in a way that is responsible to the taxpayer, [having] a strategy and a plan for how that practice recovers or merges or whatever is their right solution’ and that it would provide ‘real, meaningful support being delivered very quickly in order to stabilise that position’.