Exclusive NHS England will invest in GP practice premises next year after a prolonged freeze, its chief executive has promised in an exclusive interview with Pulse.
Simon Stevens said GPs need ‘support for modern infrastructure’ but admitted that ‘it will take a number of years’ to get to where premises needed to be.
The comments come after NHS England put a freeze on GP premises investment earlier this year, while reviewing its overall strategy for general practice provision and how premises would fit in.
GP leaders said that funding was required now, but said that a planned release of funding would be ‘excellent news’.
Now that NHS England has published its Five Year Forward View, including plans for larger multi-specialty GP practices to provide a wider range of services, Mr Stevens has signalled that he is ready to prioritise GP premises development.
Mr Stevens said: ‘In 2015/16 I want us to begin to make more progress on premises… We need support for modern infrastructure.’
He added: ‘I’ve talked to the GPC and the RCGP about this and I know that even if GPs were funded for more services there are physical constraints because there is not an extra room in the surgery to do it.’
Asked how GPs would be supported to remedy this, Mr Stevens said it would be via financial investment, which NHS England would prioritise.
However he admitted that he did not know what level of funding GPs could expect as this depended on overall investment from the Government.
He said: ‘Investment if we can. It depends on what the overall level of resources turns out to be… I don’t know exactly what the resources will be for next year. It’s dependent on the Government. But we do have some discretion and we’d like to use it in that direction.’
He added: ‘Nobody can wave a magic wand. It will take a number of years to invest in general practice infrastructure to get the kind of modern services that people want. But we’re on to it.’
Dr Brian Balmer, lead GPC negotiator on premises, said: ‘If they have identified the money then that is great news. But why not make it November 2014 – if you start planning now you are not going to build much in the next few months anyway. If they have identified the money I think they should make a big song and dance about it and I will be very happy to applaud them all the way, and signal to practices and area teams to get rowing on whatever plans they have.’
‘So if this is going to be a planned release of funding, well that is excellent news.’
The GPC has yet to begin talks with the Government about premises funding in light of being promised this as an add-on to next year’s concluded contract negotiation.
NHS England has previously said that CCGs will be expected to invest in GP premises via co-commissioning, using money reallocated from PMS practice funding.
A Pulse investigation recently revealed that NHS England invested only £14.2m on GP premises development last year across all 25 area teams.