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Government ‘£3.7bn off’ meeting GP funding targets

The Government has fallen short of funding targets for general practice by £3.7bn, according to a new report by the BMA.

The proportion of health service funds spent on GP services has fallen in the past decade, dropping to 7.9% of the overall NHS budget in 2016/17 compared with 9.6% in 2005/6, the BMA’s report Investment in General Practice in England said.

The research – based on NHS Digital figures – found that general practice is receiving £2bn less than it would have if spending levels had stayed at 2005/6 levels, with the Government now £3.7bn short of meeting its widely accepted target of spending 11% of the overall NHS budget on primary care.

The speed at which spending on general practice is increasing has also slowed down, falling from 5% in 2015/16 to 3% in 2016/17, despite government promises of an acceleration in funding during this period.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair, said: ’The BMA’s GP Committee successfully secured an additional £321m for general practice in England in the past year and while that has helped struggling practices, it will take far greater levels of sustained investment to resolve the pressures on local GP services.

’The rate of extra investment has noticeably slowed in the past year despite government promises of an acceleration in resources directed to frontline patient care during the same period. With rapidly rising workload pressures, practices cannot be expected to deliver a comprehensive service for as little as £151 per patient per year.’

BMA research has found that a third of practices have vacancies unfilled for over a year and nine out of 10 GPs report their workload as unmanageable.

More than half of GP practices feel they are under so much strain they are considering applying to have their practice list closed by NHS England.

Dr Vautrey added: ‘This is a shocking state of affairs that cannot be allowed to go on.’