Only an above-inflation uplift to practice funding will save GPs in 2024/25, argues Jaimie Kaffash
Our exclusive interview with Dr Amanda Doyle confirmed what many of us (ahem) suspected – that the 2024/25 contract won’t be the revolution in general practice that we hoped for.
Logically, this is probably the only outcome. With an election next year, the Government will not have the political will to commit to an overhaul in general practice. Nor, I suspect, would it be in the best interests of NHS England or the BMA GP Committee to participate in negotiations that would necessarily have short-term political motivations involved.
There is talk about the contract signifying the longer-term direction of travel – and this is something I will address in the weeks ahead.
But there is a fire to fight in the immediate term. We all know practices – like everyone else – are affected by the cost-of-living crisis. The difference for GPs is that they are still on a five-year funding framework that did not foresee this level of inflation.
I’ve heard the argument that GPs have benefited from this in recent years compared with other parts of the NHS (including from the GPC chair who negotiated it in the first place). Next year, however, there is no excuse and GP funding absolutely has to match inflation in 2024.
This has to be the priority for the new GPC chair. Without question we need an overhaul in the whole payments system, but this is obviously not going to happen next year. So Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer’s argument has to be that GPs are drowning and only an above-inflation uplift to practice funding will save them in 2024/25.
Furthermore, all this money should go straight to the global sum. It can’t have strings attached, be linked to QOF or enhanced services. A review of all that can come in 2025.
This should be perfectly possible. The Government will be in an election year. It’s an easy sell to the electorate: ‘We know how much you are struggling with GP access, and we are putting our money where our mouth is.’ And apparently, we have a chancellor who understands the pressures in general practice.
What we can’t have is the Government imposing a rollover of circa 3%, similar to the five-year contract. And the GPC can’t roll over and accept such an imposition, with a vague notion of keeping their powder dry for the 2025 contract – such a stance won’t wash for a second year in a row.
I think that the GPC have the right person in charge to fight for this. This is quite the baptism of fire.