BMA predicts £3.4bn GP funding shortfall by 2020/21

General practice funding will be £3.4bn below the level it needs by the end of the decade, according to the BMA.

A report published by the union reveals the yawning gap between current funding plans and the level of investment the profession needs. It comes just weeks after the BMA confirmed that a majority of GPs have indicated they are prepared to take part in a co-ordinated closure of practice lists to highlight unsustainable pressure on general practice.

Even with funding commitments in the GP Forward View, 'not enough funding is being invested in general practice to ensure its sustainability', the BMA warns.

Modelling by BMA experts shows that projected investment in general practice in 2017/18 will hit £9.7bn - £3.9bn short of the 11% share of overall NHS funding the union says the profession should receive.

GP funding

By 2020/21, despite investment pledged through the GP Forward View, the gap will narrow only slightly. The BMA warns that although 2020/21 GP funding will reach £11.2bn, this will remain £3.4bn below an 11% share of overall NHS investment.

The GP Forward View pledged an increase of at least £2.4bn per year in GP investment by 2020/21, a figure that NHS England pledged would take the profession's share of health service funding beyond the 10% mark.

General practice received a 7.5% share of NHS funding in 2015/16, the BMA says, and is on track to receive just 8.4% by 2020/21 even if GP Forward View commitments are met in full.

The BMA acknowledges that part of the funding gap could be filled by additional CCG investment, sustainability and transformation funding and money from the Better Care Fund. But it warns that this looks unlikely to materialise because CCGs' investment in primary care has been hit by pressure to tackle hospital deficits, and funding has failed to follow work moving out of hospital into community and primary care settings.

GP crisis

The BMA report warns that a year after it warned that general practice needed an 11% share of NHS funding to reverse years of underinvestment, the need for improved funding 'remains pressing'.

It warns: 'Over the last year the crisis in general practice has deepened, with practices struggling to cope with unsustainable workloads, a workforce crisis and inadequate resources.'

The report highlights 'record numbers of practice closures in England, with more than one GP surgery closing every week' in 2016, excluding mergers; eight in 10 GPs in England saying their workload is unmanageable; and the proportion of patients waiting more than two weeks for an appointment rising to a record high of 20%.

Speaking after a GPC meeting last week, chair Dr Richard Vautrey said GPs' willingness to take part in co-ordinated list closure was a 'clear warning signal that the government could not ignore about the need to urgently address the incredible pressures bearing down on general practice'.

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