GP funding 'nowhere near enough', warns GPC chair

Recent increases in GP funding are 'nowhere near enough' to tackle the crisis facing general practice in England, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey has warned in a speech that won a standing ovation from GP leaders.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)

In a speech to the first LMCs conference for England, the Leeds GP warned that general practice should not have to fight against a tide of underfunding to deliver the increasingly complex care patients need.

Dr Vautrey - elected this summer as both UK and England GPC chair - echoed a  warning from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens this week that the overall NHS budget is 'simply too small'.

'Politicians can and should be making the decision to invest more in the NHS as a whole,' Dr Vautrey told GP leaders. 'They can and should be prioritising not just general practice but our community services, our mental health services, our hospital services, our social care services, all of which are under huge and growing pressures.'

Interview: Dr Richard Vautrey sets out top priorities

Recent increases in GP investment in England are welcome, the GPC chair said, but must go further. 'It is nowhere near enough. Eleven years ago, in 2006, discounting the inclusion of dispensed drugs, the NHS spent 9.6% of its budget on general practice. By 2013 it had fallen to a miserly 7.4%.'

He warned that by 2020/21, even if all new funding promised through the GP Forward View materialised, general practice would be £3.4bn short of the 11% share of overall NHS funding it needs.

'£142.63 per patient, that’s all a typical non-dispensing GMS practice gets for a year’s worth of unlimited care,' Dr Vautrey told the conference. 'That’s 57p a day - 57p a day.  That’s all this and previous governments seem to think patients are worth, all that they think general practice is worth, and so is it any wonder practices up and down the country are struggling to keep the show on the road?

'We should not be left trying desperately to deliver a complex and specialised service with so little. We are…highly trained generalists who are specialists in delivering holistic care that makes a difference to all aspects of our patients’ lives and we need the resources necessary to do that.

'We are professionals delivering the most popular public service not just by coincidence, but because of our hard work and dedication, our willingness to innovate, our ability to respond rapidly to change and because we know our patients and we are willing to stand up and fight for their healthcare.

Private services

Dr Vautrey hit out at NHS England support for the rollout of the GP at Hand service, which will allow a limited range of patients in London to register with a practice far from their home address and receive video consultations. The GPC chair told the conference: ''Unlike some new services promoted this week that NHS England seems to support, we don’t cherry-pick young, fit and healthy patients.

'We don’t refuse to treat people who are vulnerable, frail or housebound, those with learning disabilities or complex problems. We deliver a service that is open to all, no questions asked.'

Highlighting important gains for general practice in England in recent years, Dr Vautrey said: 'We’ve scrapped the worst elements of QOF, we ended a whole series of micromanaging and bureaucratic [measures] … we’ve secured maternity pay and guaranteed sickness pay for GPs, we’ve secured funding to cover in-year indemnity rises and we’ve even got full reimbursement of CQC fees.

'And crucially, on top of all that, we’ve started to turn the tide on a decade of funding cuts and secured over £500m recurrent investment into general practice in the last two years, investment that is vital for practices right across the country.'

Dr Vautrey's warning comes after NHS chief executive Mr Stevens warned ahead of the next budget that NHS funding would need to increase by £4bn by the 2018/19 financial year to avoid the number of people on NHS waiting lists rising to an all-time high.

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