Chancellor George Osborne announces £1bn GP funding increase

GP leaders have said they are encouraged by an announcement by the chancellor that he will set aside over £1bn pounds in new funding for GP services in the autumn statement on Wednesday.

Chancellor George Osborne: GP funding pledge (Photo: Julian Dodd)

George Osborne said on 30 November that he will put an extra £2bn a year into front line NHS services in the UK. An additional £1.1bn over four years, funded from fines imposed on banks, will be set aside to boost GP services.

GP leaders said the announcement follows agreements made during contract negotiations to tackle premises problems.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Osborne said: ‘I can tell you we can go further and use those fines that have been paid by the banks for a permanent improvement in GP services.'

Five-year plan for NHS

Mr Osborne described his new funding as a ‘downpayment’ on NHS England's Five Year Forward View. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has called for a 1.5% funding increase, an additional £8bn by 2020, on top of efficiency savings to close a £30bn funding gap. The Forward View set out new models to reconfigure GP services alongside community or secondary care.

'What we are doing here is a downpayment on [Simon Stevens’] plan for the NHS with this new fund to improve GP services working closely with hospitals to transform the NHS into the future so it goes on dealing with our ageing society and all the medicines that are becoming available,' Mr Osborne told Andrew Marr.

The country could afford the increase because the economy was strong, he said.

Last week the King's Fund and NHS Providers (formerly the Foundation Trust Network) called on the government to find £2bn additional funding for 2015/16 to avert a crisis.

Of the additional £2bn next year, £1.3bn will be new funding from departrmental underspends, £700m will come from the existing DH back office budget. The funding will be subject to the Barnett Formula for the devolved nations with £300m for Scootland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The £1.1bn over four years for GPs will come from fines imposed on banks for the Forex rigging scandal. The money will be used for services in the community, to bring hospital level care to GP surgeries, and support the NHS priority of shifting care out of acute settings. While not specifically set aside for premises, the money could be used to improve general practice infrastructure. The GP funding will also subject to the Barnett formula.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce further details later on Monday 1 December.

Labour pledge

Labour said it would match the government spending as well as fund an additional £2.5bn a year for the NHS from a mansion tax, tobacco profit levy and tax avoidance crackdown.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Mr Osborne’s autumn statement was ‘unravelling’ before he'd delivered it.

‘He has not found an extra £2bn for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the DH budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3bn reorganisation.’

He added: ‘The chancellor’s spin is of no help at all to an NHS in real crisis now.’

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘encouraging’ that politicians were beginning to listen to doctors’ concerns about pressure on GP services. 

‘We have continually highlighted that GPs simply don’t have the space to care - with inadequate impoverished GP premises which have received no national investment for over a decade, leaving many GPs working in premises designed for a past era, unable to meet current patent needs, and with no capacity to accommodate the government’s ambition of moving further care out of hospitals.

GP premises solution

‘The chancellor’s announcement could, if delivered properly and in co-operation with GPs, begin to tackle the problems facing GP premises. This is something that the GPC has pushed hard for and is built on the guarantee we secured during our recent contract negotiations where the government committed to developing a specific strategy for GP premises.

'We further built on this approach by holding a special summit on GP premises in the summer attended by government ministers and an event in the House of Commons that many parliamentarians attended. This investment is vital as a recent large-scale  BMA survey found that four out of 10 GPs felt their premises were not able to provide even basic GP services, while seven out of 10 felt they would not be able to deliver additional services, despite many desperately wanting to do so for their patients.’

Dr Nagpaul said the GPC would work with NHS England to ensure the funding is spent appropriately while continuing to point out other pressing issues such as workload and workforce.

Mr Stevens said: ‘Last month the NHS itself came together to chart a new direction for health in this country. Our NHS Forward View unleashed an amazingly wide consensus – among patient groups, local communities, front-line staff and NHS leaders. People now get the fact that a growing and ageing population means we’re going to have to supercharge our work on prevention, on care integration, and on treatment innovation.

‘But we also told it as it is: services are under pressure. We know times are tight, but the economy is now growing. Sustaining a high quality health service in the years ahead will therefore require both challenging new efficiencies and genuine new investment.

‘That's the case I’ve been making on behalf of the NHS to government, and today they've listened and responded with the funding we need for next year to sustain frontline NHS services and kick-start transformation. Of course there will still be pressures and difficult choices, but the government has played its part and the NHS will step up and play our part too. Today represents an extremely welcome vote of confidence in the NHS’ own five-year plan.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: 'The Chancellor’s announcement today is excellent news for GPs, the NHS and most importantly our patients - who we know want to be cared for close to their homes, out of hospitals.

'This injection of funding can transform the care GPs and our teams deliver to our patients.'

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