More than half of LMCs surveyed by the GPC have said practices promised funding had yet to receive it, despite NHS England’s deadline for money to spent by the end of March.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has written to NHS England calling for plans to be outlined on the allocation of unspent funds and for it to be protected and rolled forward into the next financial year.
The first £16m tranche of the three-year resilience fund, announced in the GP Forward View in April 2016, was supposed to have been allocated to practices by local commissioners by last autumn and spent by the end of March. But the GPC has said that more than £11m has yet to be deployed.
NHS England has already apologised for deploying too slowly the predecessor vulnerable practice fund but promised that over 1,000 practices would be supported by the new scheme by the end of this financial year.
Vulnerable GP practices
However, of 40 LMCs surveyed by the GPC, 23 said funding allocated to practices had either not yet been spent, or was only partly spent.
Dr Nagpaul said it was ‘completely unacceptable’ that a ‘postcode lottery’ had developed in the delivery of the key support promised in the GP Forward View. ‘This is scandalous given that CCGs were allocated these funds in the autumn,’ Dr Nagpaul said. ‘In many cases these deadlines are being completely missed.’
He added: 'The BMA has written to NHS England asking them to urgently address this serious operational failure. This funding must be retained and ringfenced for its intended purpose and not lost from CCG budgets due to their failure to spend it in this financial year. It is vital that every eligible practice should have access to this vital support, to prevent any adverse effects on patient services, or even in some cases practices closing.’
In January RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard criticised 'extremely disappointing' progress in deploying the funding. A progress report by the college, which was badged as a partner in the GP Forward View, found that by the end of 2016 just 219 practices of over 1,000 identified as eligible had received any support from the fund.
An NHS England spokesman said: 'The latest local team reports show investment of £9.2m supporting over 600 struggling practices through the Vulnerable Practice Programme and investment of £11.9m supporting over a further 500 practices through the Practice Resilience Programme. All funding is committed to be spent by the end of this financial year as we deliver on our commitments set out in the GP Forward View.'