£25m GP share of winter pressure fund 'not enough'

Around £25m of an NHS winter pressures funding package announced by the DH will be spent on increased access to general practice, the government has said.

Winter: NHS under pressure
Winter: NHS under pressure

GP leaders warned the extra funding was a ‘sticking plaster’, and called for a long-term rise in general practice funding and less bureaucracy.

The RCGP called for a higher proportion of the funding to be targeted at primary care.

Following what the government called ‘one of the most comprehensive winter planning exercises the NHS has ever seen’, on Friday the DH announced a £300m second wave of funding for winter pressures, on top of £400m announced earlier this year.

Local decisions

Funding will be distributed on a ‘fair shares’ basis between CCGs, and decisions made locally on how to spend it.

An NHS England spokeswoman said funding to boost GP access could be spent on employing GPs to work in A&E, to extend practice opening hours or fund extra out-of-hours GP cover.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘The NHS is under unprecedented extra demand, with a million more visits to A&E each year compared to 2010 and 2,000 extra ambulance journeys a day.

‘But we know the cold weather can bring added pressure so, as in previous years, we’ve given the NHS extra resources to make sure it is better prepared than ever before. We are boosting frontline services and expect the NHS to ensure strong performance is delivered locally.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘What we really need is long-term significant investment into core funding so that practices could take on more GPs and nurses to really meet the growing needs of our patients through the year. This is simply a sticking plaster that won't help heal the deep wound below it.

Funding will have limited impact

‘Compared with the hundreds of millions of pounds found for hospitals it's hard to see how just £25m can make a big difference for general practice.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘An extra £25m to help general practice cope with the rising number of patients who will need care over the winter will be put to very good use. We also expect CCGs to have discussions about how more of the funding announced today can be ploughed into general practice, so that we can reduce pressure on hospitals and prevent unnecessary admissions.’

She called for NHS England to ‘think laterally’ to reduce bureaucracy for GP practices, and warned that ‘the best way to alleviate pressures on A&E and other services…is to improve access to general practice.’

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