Don't waste £3.8bn NHS funding uplift on seven-day services, warns GPC

GP leaders have warned that a significant proportion of the £3.8bn NHS funding increase for 2016/17 must be spent on improving existing GP services, rather than forcing the profession to operate seven days a week.

Dr Richard Vautrey
Dr Richard Vautrey

Chancellor George Osborne has announced ahead of a spending review announcement due on Wednesday that NHS funding will rise £10bn above inflation by 2020, with a £3.8bn uplift planned for 2016/17.

The government statement on the increase made clear that the funding would be used in part to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment of seven-day NHS services across England by 2020.

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey warned that general practice funding alone was 'at least £2bn short compared with 2006'.

Seven-day NHS

He warned that while the uplift to NHS funding was welcome, the health service could 'ill afford to waste the money on Sunday appointments'.

Pointing to NHS England's warning in the Five Year Forward View that the NHS needed £30bn just to stand still - it called for £8bn in new funding and £22bn efficiency savings - he hit out at the seven-day plans.

'I note that the chancellor has indicated that the £3.8bn is to deliver a seven-day service on top of the existing service - this shows a wholesale ignorance of what is deliverable given what is happening in the NHS at the moment. It will simply stretch and already overstretched service more thinly.'

Dr Vautrey said it was vital that the uplift was used to move general practice back towards the 11% share of total NHS funding it received a decade ago.

GP funding

'General practice needs as much as possible of this funding,' Dr Vautrey told GPonline. He said that the profession now received around 7.5% of NHS funding overall, and that a 'significantly higher proportion' of the new investment must come to primary care.

'Simon Stevens has highlighted underfunding of general practice,' Dr Vautrey added. 'This is an opportunity for him to put his money where his mouth is.

'The NHS can ill afford to waste this funding on on Sunday appointments - we need to use it to address where the real pressures are - that is core work, not political vanity projects.

'General practice needs significant and sustained investment, it can’t just be a one off.'

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