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£4.5bn primary care funding will relieve pressure on GPs, promises Hancock

Exclusive The extra £4.5bn funding boost to primary care will be used to relieve pressure on GPs rather than introducing new services, health secretary Matt Hancock has promised.

Mr Hancock told Pulse there is ‘too much pressure’ on GPs and primary care, and some of the £4.5bn is ‘specifically aimed at relieving that pressure’.

The long-term plan, which sets out how the Government will spend a £20.5bn funding boost for the NHS, has pledged an extra £4.5bn for primary and community care by 2023/24.

However, Pulse has learned that in order to receive this money, practices in England will be mandated to join primary care networks of 30-50,000 patients from April.

Speaking exclusively to Pulse, Mr Hancock said other healthcare professionals can deliver ‘lots of things’ that GPs currently do, thereby ‘freeing up GPs to do those things, to make the interventions that their full training is needed for’.

He said: ‘So the extra money is about making it easier to deliver the services that GPs want to deliver and should be able to deliver now and relieving that pressure and also supporting them to move to new ways of working.’

‘I get the fact that there is too much pressure now on primary care and on GPs. And some of the money is specifically aimed at relieving that pressure and ensuring that it’s easier for a patient to see their GP and trying to take some of the pressure out of that system. It is about improving access to GPs, and therefore reducing burden is an important part of that,’ Hancock continued.

However, some GPs are concerned that the ‘small print’ attached to the new funding will stop it actually reaching general practice and making a difference. 

Walsall GP and LMC medical secretary Dr Uzma Ahmad said: ‘Looking backwards, any new funding that has come to general practice has not really lifted GP workload. All the money streams have had so many caveats linked with them, that they really have not relieved the pressure. The small print and kind of bureaucracy attached has been tremendously high – particularly referring to the GP Forward View.’

‘I have similar concerns with these new announcements. Again, they are making the area between primary care and general practice more vague, so when we talk about general practice and its crisis on its own, it doesn’t really satisfy me that this new money will relieve the current pressure specifically on general practice,’ she continued.

This comes after a Pulse survey found one in four GP partners across the UK have been forced to stop providing certain clinical services, while one in seven have considered closing their practice, as a result of rising demand and staffing problems.

Luton GP and LMC member Dr Una Duffy said: ‘We don’t know what he actually means by relieveing pressure. To me, the only thing that will do that is more GPs working in practices, and I don’t see how his promise or money will provide that.

‘For GPs, it’s a soundbite, I want to know how he is going to actually do it.’

Last week, Pulse revealed the Mr Hancock has not set a new date for when the Government should meet its target of adding 5,000 more GPs to the workforce.

Hancock said he is committed to the 5,000 extra GPs target – first pledged by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2015 – but it will not be met by 2020. Meanwhile, NHS England said it is ‘on track’ to recruit the 5,000 extra non-GP primary care staff, also promised by Mr Hunt.