Budget confirms £20bn NHS boost but falls short on support for GPs

The autumn budget has failed to deliver the funding general practice needs to become sustainable, GP leaders have warned, despite confirmation that NHS funding will rise by £20.5bn over the next five years.

Budget (Photo: iStock.com/stocknshares)
Budget (Photo: iStock.com/stocknshares)

Responding to the chancellor’s autumn budget statement this afternoon, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said ‘more needs to be done’ to secure the future of general practice - calling for a promised £2bn rise for mental health services to be matched in direct spending on GP practices.

Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed on Monday that the government was committed to its pledge to deliver a £20.5bn real-terms funding increase for the NHS over the next five years.

Dr Vautrey said the promise of a more substantial increase in NHS funding was a 'step in the right direction' but warned that previous promises have ‘not fully translated to the improvements on the ground’.

The GPC chair said: ‘The promised funding increases in this budget are unlikely to result in general practice reaching 11% of the NHS budget, which is what the BMA believes is needed to provide a fully sustainable service.’

NHS budget

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Hammond said: ‘Let me be clear: we are delivering this historic £20.5bn real-terms increase for the NHS in full over the next five years.’

He added: ‘Our NHS is the number one priority of the British people. But the British people also care that the money invested in the NHS goes to the frontline and to improvements in services. So we didn’t just hand over money.

'We agreed that the NHS would produce a 10-year plan setting out how the service would reform, how waste will be reduced and exactly what the British people can expect to get for their money. That plan will be published shortly but I will give the house a sneak preview today.’

Mr Hammond revealed that, as part of the NHS long-term plan, mental health spending will increase by more than £2bn a year by 2023/24 to 'ensure that people suffering from crises will get the help they need'. This will include the creation of a new ‘mental health crisis service’ with more ‘safe havens in the community’ and more ‘mental health ambulances’.

Funding increase

The chancellor also announced an additional boost for social care, including £650m of grant funding for English councils for 2019/20 and an additional £45m for the disabled facilities grant in England in 2018/19.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘The investment in mental health services is welcome, but a similar figure needs to be directed directly into practices to deliver the focus the government wants. Ministers must realise that more needs to be done not least to address the difficult environment in general practice that is damaging patient care and putting GPs under intolerable pressure.’

Last week, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the budget must deliver a 'significant boost to general practice funding' to make the NHS sustainable in the long-term.

The Nuffield Trust think tank warned that much of the NHS funding increase would be needed 'just ot get the basics back on track' - and hit out at a lack of funding guarantees for 'hospital buildings, IT investments, training or public health'.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) also hit out at the budget's failure to provide increased funding for public health.

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