General practice spend up despite slump in GP profits

Spending on general practice has risen by more than 4 per cent across the UK despite successive pay freezes for the profession, data shows.

Dr Vautrey: DoH should invest at least an extra 2% in general practice
Dr Vautrey: DoH should invest at least an extra 2% in general practice

Data from the NHS Information Centre shows the total spend on general practice rose 4.25 per cent to £9.7 billion between 2008/9 and 2009/10 having risen by 1.36 per cent the year before.

But investment is not reaching practices, as figures released last week show GPs' profits dropped in 2009/10 for the third consecutive year.

Last week, GP exclusively revealed the results of the UK's largest survey of practice manager pay which found that it had increased by 2.3 per cent in 2010 (GP, 24 September).

This is in line with NHS Information Centre data showing GP expenses rose by 5.1 per cent in 2008/9.

The NHS Information Centre's report says the rise in total spend on general practice is likely to reflect increased spending on out-of-hours, enhanced services and APMS premises, not all of which reaches GP practices.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey blamed Labour's Darzi centre programme for sucking up the extra primary care cash.

'The money is likely to have gone into a number of sources but it has not reached general practice. The previous government embarked on a programme of GP-led health centres that I would hope this government is not pursuing.'

Dr Vautrey called for the DoH to invest at least an extra 2 per cent in general practice this year, in line with the coalition's pledge to increase overall NHS spending by 2 per cent.

'There's no reason why that 2 per cent should not reach GPs in primary care,' he said.

A DoH breakdown of PCT spending reveals the amount spent on GP practices (GMS, PMS, APMS or PCTMS) has risen over the past three years, from £5.8 billion in 2006/7 to £7.2 billion in 2008/9.

The amount of money trusts spent purchasing healthcare from non-NHS bodies also rose significantly between 2006/7 and 2008/9, from £4.7 billion to £6.4 billion.

The spending data also reveals that PCTs lost up to £31 million pounds in non-retrievable 'bad debts' between 2006/7 and 2007/8.

A DoH spokeswoman was unable to explain how PCTs may have accrued such debts.

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