BMA surveys GPs amid fears £1bn infrastructure fund failing to benefit practices

GP leaders are consulting the profession over fears that a £1bn primary care infrastructure fund will be diverted or fail to deliver promised investment in GP premises.

Dr Brian Balmer: infrastructure fund concerns
Dr Brian Balmer: infrastructure fund concerns

Launching phase two of the infrastructure fund, NHS England national director of commissioning operations Dame Barbara Hakin said ‘the bulk of the fund will be deployed to improve estates and accelerate digital and technological developments in general practice’ and that bids would need to meet criteria including boosting primary care capacity and reducing hospital admissions.

The GPC said last week that the fund was ‘faltering’ and that delays and administrative hurdles meant promised improvements for practices were failing to materialise.

More than 1,000 GP practices were allocated £192m of the first £250m tranche of the four-year infrastructure investment fund.

GP premises funding

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul last week called on the DH and NHS England to ensure that earmarked investments were delivered ‘in the quickest possible timeframe’.

BMA leaders have now launched a survey of GP practices to assess whether investment is coming through from the programme.

The survey asks whether practices have applied for funding, how much they bid for, and what they planned to use it for.

It asks whether practices have experienced delays in obtaining funding, and if so what has caused the delays and how long they are.

GPC premises lead Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘We are launching this major survey as we need to get to the bottom of whether GP practices are seeing any benefits from the government’s primary care investment fund.

Primary care infrastructure

‘This was a much publicised scheme which was supposed to address decades of under-investment in GP facilities.’

Dr Balmer pointed to a recent BMA survey that found four in 10 GP practices struggled to provide basic care because their buildings were inadequate, and highlighted concerns that a proportion of infrastructure funding would not be used for premises improvement.

‘Unfortunately, we have seen limited progress since the blaze of launch publicity,’ he said. ‘We are concerned that there will be a significant underspend in this programme and that actual spending on premises will be very disappointing. Last week we saw an unacceptable alteration in the funding criteria governing this programme which could result in its resources being raided to pay for other NHS England projects.

‘I would urge all GP practices to fill in this BMA survey so we can establish a true picture of the state of GP premises and give voice to the concerns of thousands of GPs about this faltering programme.’

When he announced the funding in December 2014 George Osborne said it would ‘'pay for modern premises and technology’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs the money, taken in fines from banks, would pay for ‘new surgeries and community care facilities in the places where people most want them: near their own homes and families’.

Click here to take part in the BMA premises survey

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