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Jeremy Hunt pledges £10m to support struggling practices under ‘new deal’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will pledge £10m for a ‘turnaround programme’ to prevent practices closing, as part of his ‘new deal’ for general practice announced today.

In a speech today, Mr Hunt will promise a series of measures to put the ‘inspiration and magic back’ into GPs’ working life, including increasing the primary care workforce by 10,000, ‘golden hellos’ to attract GPs to areas of ‘greatest need’ and a national marketing campaign to promote general practice.

The ‘new deal’ – announced by the Prime Minister in his first speech after the election – has been billed as a turning point for the profession.

But GP leaders have been less than enthusiastic about the package of measures, many of which have been announced before, with the GPC saying the profession ‘needs urgent action now, not just aspiration for the future’.

And the health secretary also specifically linked any additional investment to the Government’s plans to move towards a seven-day service, saying that ‘deals have two parties’ and he wanted co-operation from the profession in return.

Mr Hunt will make his speech later today at the Nelson Medical Practice in south-west London. He will say: ‘We need effective, strong and expanding general practice more than ever before in the history of the NHS.’

He will also say: ‘I am keeping my pledge to announce a new deal for general practice… Now deals have two parties, so I want to be upfront: this is not about change I can deliver on my own. If we are to have a new deal I will need your cooperation and support – both in improving the quality and continuity of care for vulnerable patients and delivering better access, seven days a week, for everyone.

‘Work together on a new deal and we really can transform the quality of primary and community services for patients, reduce burnout and put the inspiration and magic back into general practice. I hope you will join me on that journey.’

The £10m ‘turnaround programme’ will be used to help struggling practices and will be administered by NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners.

Pulse has been calling for emergency support for struggling practices facing closure in its Stop Practice Closures campaign, highlighting rising numbers of practices considering closure. But GP leaders say the additional money promised is not enough.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The priority must be to first address this overwhelming workload pressure GPs face, in order to re-establish general practice as a career that is rewarding and appealing. Only this will improve GP recruitment and retention.

‘It is vital that government moves beyond rhetoric and brings forward tangible resources and practical solutions to stabilise general practice, and give GPs the time and tools to care holistically for patients. We need urgent action now, not just aspiration for the future.’

Dr Dean Eggitt, chair of Doncaster LMC, where there are huge recruitment problems and struggling practices, said: ‘The £10m is not even slightly enough. It will make Jeremy Hunt look good, but it won’t do anything for the problem.

‘We are not looking for sticking plasters, we are looking for long-term investment, so we can continue long-term viable businesses.

‘The £10m will probably go as far as paying the consultancy firm fees.’  

What is the ‘new deal’ all about?

  • A £10 million turn-around programme to support struggling practices, led by NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners;
  • At least 10,000 extra primary care staff – including 5,000 GPs, including practice nurses, district nurses, physician associates and pharmacists;
  • New data from NHS England on staffing levels to focus recruitment on the most under-doctored areas;
  • To explore the idea of targeted financial incentives to attract doctors into areas of greatest need as part of a plan being developed by NHS England and Health Education England in conjunction with GP leaders;
  • Offering trainees a further year of training in a clinical speciality relevant to primary care, such as paediatrics, psychiatry and emergency medicine;
  • Recommitting the Government to £750m of new premises funding for GPs over the next three years.
  • A national marketing campaign, led by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association, to encourage medical students to choose general practice, highlighting that it will be the biggest growth area of the NHS in coming years;
  • New flexibilities for GPs who wish to work part time, as well as more support for those who wish to return to the profession.

Source: Department of Health