GP A&E plans face workforce and funding threat, hospitals warn

GP workforce shortages could undermine plans for primary care streaming services in every A&E, hospital trusts have warned.

NHS Providers - the organisation that represents trusts - said in a report warning about coming winter pressures that the plan for GPs in emergency departments announced by the government in the March budget would need more funding from commissioners.

The chancellor announced £100m infrastructure capital funding for hospitals to make premises alterations and developments to set up the schemes. NHS England has said every emergency department must have a primary-care streaming system in place for this winter.

NHS Providers warned in its new report that many hospitals ‘might be unlikely’ to use the new funding ‘quickly enough to make a tangible difference this winter’.

NHS funding

It added that recurrent revenue costs of between £500,000 and £1m per centre were required for the services but that ‘many trusts currently do not have this kind of surplus to support this initiative’ and would require funding from commissioners.

GPonline revealed in March that ministers expected local NHS organisations to fund operating costs, including for staffing, and reconfigure existing GP services such as out-of-hours care to support the new systems.

An investigation by GPonline last month, using plans obtained from trusts, revealed that more than 200 new GPs could be required to staff the streaming services.

GPC acting chair Dr Richard Vautrey said at the time: ‘Rather than spending £100m on taking GPs out of the community and setting up a service that will simply attract even more patients to unnecessarily attend A&E the government should be investing in general practice where that much needed additional funding could be far better spent.’

GP workforce

Former GP and chair of the House of Commons health committee Dr Sarah Wollaston has warned: ‘Having a general practice workforce that can fund these co-located departments alongside out-of-hours departments, and alongside proving routine surgeries on Sundays - I'm afraid we simply don't have the workforce to be able to sustain that.’

NHS Providers chief executive  Chris Hopson called on ministers to find an additional £350m for targeted support for NHS services over the winter to fund extra beds, more staff, and to strengthen ambulance and mental health services.

He said: ‘Last winter NHS staff responded heroically to extraordinary pressures. But safety and standards of care were compromised. In too many places the NHS was overwhelmed for short periods of time. We must not allow that to happen again.’

Photo: iStock

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