Chancellor's £1.2bn GP fund will shift specialist care into community

The £1.2bn primary care investment fund unveiled as part of chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement will be used to build new premises to provide advanced, specialist treatments in the community.

Parliament: autumn statement pledges £1.2bn GP fund (Photo: Robin Hammond)

The new health centres will be linked with job centres in order to help support people back into work.

Chancellor George Osborne’s last autumn statement before next year’s general election revealed more details on the fund announced in parliament on Monday by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Osborne told MPs that the government, ‘instead of returning the foreign exchange fines paid by the banks back to the City, is using that windfall for a £1.2 billion investment in GP services across the UK’.

Read more: GPC reaction

The four-year fund will ‘pay for the modern premises and technology that will give patients access to advanced care, such as chemotherapy and dialysis, in their local communities’, Treasury documents said.

‘These new primary care facilities will also be encouraged to join up closely with local job centres, social services and other community services, in order to ensure that the NHS is also supporting people back into the labour market.’

NHS England will decide exactly how the new money is spent, but £1bn has been earmarked for 'infrastructure investment', with an additional £200 million transformation fund in 2015/16 to ‘deliver the first year of the Five Year Forward View’.

‘The fund will kickstart the work needed to develop new ways of caring for patients to improve the integration of GPs, community services and hospitals.’

The Forward View set out new models to reconfigure GP services alongside community or secondary care.

GPs back funding

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the decision to ‘provide an urgent injection of investment into general practice’. ‘We hope that this new money will be used both to shore up the service,' she said.

‘Now that major new investment has been pledged to rebuild the infrastructure of general practice, it is critical that the government follows it up with further resources to help to recruit and retain thousands of additional GPs across the country.’

Dr Baker said she hoped the investment would not be a ‘one-off sticking plaster solution’.

‘We will need to ensure that the money earmarked for general practice is spent on general practice, and doesn’t get syphoned off to pay for other urgent priorities across the NHS.’

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was a ‘step forward’ that after substantial BMA lobbying ministers had recognised the dire need for infrastructure investment.

‘Many GP practices across England are in a declining state and completely unsuitable for the modern demands of 21st century medicine,' he said. 

‘This substantial investment, if delivered properly, could help begin to address this problem, but the devil will be in the detail. We need a firm strategy from the government which commits this funding to be spent specifically on GP premises and not for it to be squandered on other projects.’

National Association of Primary Care chairman Dr Nav Chana said: ‘I welcome the additional funding for the NHS, with investment targeted to primary care. This will support the development of new models of primary and community care as set out in the FYFV. New models of care focused on improving outcomes that matter to people can go a long way to providing the solutions we need for a sustainable NHS.’

Primary care upgrade

In a Commons statement on Monday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘This will help to improve primary care premises and facilities, and I know there is an urgent need to upgrade a number of GP surgeries and primary care facilities. But it isn't, essentially, about buildings.

'It is about new models of care. And the big change we need to see over the next five years is a change in the role of GPs where they have the capacity and the desire to take proactive responsibility, particularly for the most vulnerable people on their lists: the people with long-term conditions.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the new funding would not address pressure on the NHS today and would not prevent the service tipping into crisis.

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.

The chancellor announced total of £3.1bn NHS funding. An annual £2bn - £1.3bn from underspends in other departments, plus £700m from DH back office spending - will be diverted into the NHS. £1.5bn will go into front line patient care in England in 2015/16.

The new funding for the NHS in 2015/16 will generate an additional £237m available for the devolved administrations.

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