GP funding to rise £2.4bn a year by 2020/21 in landmark deal for general practice

GP funding will rise by at least £2.4bn a year by 2020/21 under the GP Forward View - a package of support for the profession unveiled on Thursday.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens

The overall proportion of health service funding spent on general practice will rise to more than 10% by 2020/21 under the proposals, NHS England said - a sharp rise from the current level of less than 8%.

NHS England said the deal meant that funding for general practice would increase by 14% in real terms over the five-year period, twice as fast as the increase for the rest of the NHS. General practice funding will rise from £9.6bn a year in 2015/16 to more than £12bn a year by 2020/21.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told GPonline that the announcement built on plans unveiled in December that will see GP funding rise by at least 4% a year between now and 2020/21. He said NHS leaders had taken a 'hard look' at funding across the NHS to redeploy cash to general practice, and said disinvestment in general practice over the past decade had been laughable.

A £500m tranche of the £2.4bn uplift by 2020/21 will target improved GP access, including 'sufficient routine appointments at evenings and weekends' to meet local demand.

GP funding

GP leaders welcomed the deal, with the RCGP hailing it as the 'most significant announcement for our profession since the 1960s'.

The long-awaited rescue package for general practice, set out in a document entitled the General Practice Forward View, sets out plans to tackle historic underfunding of general practice.

It unveils measures to support struggling practices, boost premises investment, cut bureaucracy and workload, tackle rising indemnity costs and boost the GP workforce.

'The historic strength of general practice is being weakened by the relative underinvestment in general practice that has occured over the past decade,' the report admits.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'This plan represents a significant step forward for general practice, supporting GPs’ wellbeing and helping us to retain a healthy workforce well into the future.

Pressure on GPs

'It is entirely right that a growing proportion of the extra money the government announced for the NHS in the spending review should go to primary care, so that we can reduce the pressure on GPs and ensure that patients get the most effective and personal care from the people most qualified to help them.'

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: 'GPs are by far the largest branch of British medicine, and as a recent BMJ headline put it – if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails. So if anyone 10 years ago had said: "Here’s what the NHS should now do - cut the share of funding for primary care and grow the number of hospital specialists three times faster than GPs", they’d have been laughed out of court.

'But looking back over a decade, that’s exactly what’s happened. Which is why it’s no great surprise that a recent international survey revealed British GPs are under far greater pressure than their counterparts, with rising workload matched by growing patient concerns about convenient access. So rather than ignore these real pressures, the NHS has at last begun openly acknowledging them. Now we need to act, and this plan sets out exactly how.'

Arvind Madan, NHS England director of primary care and a Tower Hamlets GP, said 'We are acutely aware of the pressures GPs are facing right now and the need to get on track as quickly as possible. This means that practices, working together, will benefit from access to support if they are struggling to meet patient’s needs, reductions in unnecessary workload, more opportunities to recruit staff and a chance to improve use of their technology or premises.

'We know this is just the start of the journey but we are determined to get this right for the benefit of patients, GPs and the wider healthcare system.'

Under the plans set out in the General Practice Forward View, GP funding will increase 4.4% in 2016/17 - equivalent to £322m.

This could be topped up by local investment by CCGs under sustainability and transformation plans, which are required to 'secure and support general practice'.

Over £500m of recurrent funding will be put in place by 2020/21 as part of the £2.4bn overall uplift 'to enable CCGs to commission and fund extra capacity across England to ensure that by 2020, everyone has access to GP services, including sufficient routine appointments and evenings and weekends to meet locally determined demand'.

NHS England has also drawn up a £508m five-year 'sustainability and transformation package' for general practice, which will include £56m for a practice resilience programme that aims to prevent burnout and support GPs suffering with stress, £206m to boost the medical and non-medical workforce, and £246m to support practices to redesign services - with CCGs obliged to deliver support and a £30m development programme for general practice.

Capital investment in general practice will also continue to be supported with around £900m over the next five years, NHS England said.

GP Forward View: Full coverage

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