Exclusive: GP access pilots secure top-up funding worth millions of pounds

Challenge Fund GP access pilots have received guarantees of top-up funding worth millions of pounds and assurances of financial support beyond 2014/15, GP magazine has learnt.

Dr Fiona Butler: successful Challenge Fund pilot bid
Dr Fiona Butler: successful Challenge Fund pilot bid

Some pilot projects awarded funding from the prime minister’s £50m Challenge Fund have already secured additional financial support from CCGs and NHS England's area teams.

Other Challenge Fund pilots have received assurances from local CCGs that funding will be secured if their pilots are successful.

However, GP leaders warned that any funding allocated to support the access pilots beyond the £50m central government investment could force cuts to other services.

Extra funding worth millions

GP has learnt that the One Care Consortium pilot in Bristol has secured an extra £2.1m from the local NHS England area team to fund IT on top of the £2.8m awarded from the Challenge Fund.

In London, two bids have secured a total of £8m funding from CCGs, which have matched a similar investment secured from the Challenge Fund.

The north west London pilot, Transforming Access to General Practice, which covers 1.8 million patients and 39 networks of 365 surgeries, was awarded £5m from the Challenge Fund when the details were announced on Monday.

GP has learnt that the pilot will receive an additional £4m from the eight CCGs in the project area and a further £1m from Health Education North West London.

The Better Access, Better Care, Better Lives pilot in Barking and Dagenham and Havering and Redbridge in east London will receive 'match funding' of £4m from CCGs on top of its £5.6m Challenge Fund cash.

The Integrated South Kent Coast bid has also been offered £25,000 extra funding by NHS England’s Kent and Medway area team if required on top of the £1.9m it received from the Challenge Fund.

Future support agreed

Project leaders have also secured agreements on future support from CCGs if pilots are successful.

The GP leading the Morecambe bid, Dr Mark Grealey, said his CCG was committed to funding the project after the first year if it shift care into the community.

‘The CCG has committed itself to, if we can show that, a change in commissioning to divert those monies to the primary care setting for these services,' he said.

‘If we can show we can provide the same or better service for people in the community, in a primary care setting, and at present that funding is going to secondary care, the CCG is committed to protecting that money and diverting it from secondary care to primary care, to the practices.’

Dr Guy Manford, clinical lead at Nottingham West CCG and Challenge Fund bid leader, said his CCG would also fund the programme after central funding runs out in a year.

‘Obviously, we would prefer there to be a nationally negotiated contract that's working much better,’ he said.

‘What we should be finding,' he said, ‘is our patients will be saying, wow, since this new lot took over, things have been a lot better. That money should then be something we then mainstream because it's such good use of that money.’

Repatriate work into primary care

Wakefield project leader Dr Chris Jones said financial sustainability from his pilot would come from ‘repatriating work’ into primary care and creating new commissioning mechanisms with CCGs to shift resources.

West London CCG chairwoman Dr Fiona Butler said funding ‘absolutely has to be shifting into primary care to deliver sustainable models’.

‘The key is how you make this sustainable,' she said. ‘This isn't about saying this money will be the resource for sustainable extra appointments and opening right the way across our 365 practices.

‘It saying this is a chance to start providing some of those more convenient ways of delivering care and really plan out how we move to a sustainable model that has these different types of care for people.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Other than the initial £50m funding for one year only, there is no new money available to support these pilots. If CCGs find funding to continue these projects they need to take the money from elsewhere.

'They also need to find equivalent funding for the vast majority of practices who are not part of these pilots and have not received any additional money. All patients in England deserve the same level of service from their practice and not just the favoured few. Before that it is essential that the pilots are properly evaluated as it would be foolish to continue funding extended services if the result was to undermine the quality of the current core in-hours service by stretching an already overstretched service more thinly until it reaches breaking point.'

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