NHS England has written to all practices today opening the scheme, first announced by chancellor George Osborne last month.
A total of £250m of the total investment fund will be available for each of the next four financial years. Practices can now bid for a share of the first tranche of the funding, which NHS England said would ‘improve premises, help practices to harness technology and give practices the space to offer more appointments and improved care for the frail elderly’.
Practices bidding for funding are asked to explain how their proposals would increase patient contact time, help reduce emergencies for patients aged over 75, and meet the need for extended opening hours.
In the letter to practices, national drector for commissioning operations Dame Barbara Hakin said the key metrics for prioritisation of project bids would be: 'Access to general practice (including increased appointment and patient contact time); and/or Enhanced services to support patients manage their conditions in community settings, with a measurable reduction in emergency attendances or admissions o hospital for those over 75.'
Practice were told they have only until 16 February to submit bids.
Accelerate existing schemes
NHS England said the money in the first year would be predominantly used to accelerate existing premises schemes in the pipeline.
The funding, it said, would ‘accelerate investment in increasing infrastructure, accelerate better use of technology and in the short term, will be used to address immediate capacity and access issues, as well as lay the foundations for more integrated care to be delivered in community settings’.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Any version of a better NHS over the next five years will need stronger GP services, resourced to offer a wider range of services. That’s why kick-starting an upgrade in primary care infrastructure is no longer a nice-to-have but is mission critical.’
Step in the right direction
GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul added: ‘This pledge of extra investment is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and if delivered properly could result in real change.’
GPC, he said, was ‘committed to working with NHS England to ensure this funding reaches everyday practices on the ground, so that GPs and their staff can work in fit for purpose facilities to optimally deliver the expanding level of care provided in general practice.’
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘We hope that this pledge of new money is the beginning of a "new deal for general practice" and will allow us to treat more patients in the community, keeping them out of hospitals unless absolutely necessary.’