GP funding rose much faster in rest of UK than England in 2018/19

Total NHS investment in general practice in England rose just 1.36% in real terms in 2018/19 excluding drug reimbursement - compared with growth at least three times that level across the rest of the UK.

UK funding variation (Photo: akinbostanci/Getty Images)
UK funding variation (Photo: akinbostanci/Getty Images)

Investment in general practice in England in 2018/19 excluding drug reimbursement totalled £10.5bn - a 3.2% cash increase worth just 1.36% in real terms.

The increase was roughly half the level seen in each of the three previous financial years, figures from NHS Digital reveal.

Meanwhile, funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland rose far quicker in 2018/19. Funding rose fastest in Wales, increasing 7.6% to £545m - a 5.7% real-terms increase.

GP funding

In Scotland, investment in general practice rose 6.8% to £967m - a 4.9% real-terms rise - and in Northern Ireland funding rose 6.8% to £299m, a real-terms increase of 4.8%.

The lower increase in England appears to reflect contract awards for the 2018/19 financial year. While GPs in England were awarded a 2.19% increase for that year, practices in Scotland saw a 3.42% rise. In Wales, the 2018/19 contract award was 4%, and in Northern Ireland 4.21%.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'For too long investment has not kept up with the demands being placed on general practice, and the marginal increase in the year up to April this year – itself far smaller than in previous years – is completely inadequate.

'Over the same time period the number of patients registered at practices in England went up by more than 700,000 and we lost more than 440 full-time equivalent GPs – meaning doctors and their teams are being stretched to their limits.

NHS budget

'Today’s real figure of £10.5bn in England – a disappointing 1.4% increase on the previous year – represents just 8.1% of the NHS budget going to general practice, falling far short of the BMA’s demand of 11%.

'Practices are struggling with outdated IT, and surgery buildings that are not fit for purpose – yet today’s figures underline how investment in these two particular areas is completely lacking. If we want to provide patients with care fit for their needs in the 21st century, we need investment and the resources to do it.'

GP funding in England is likely to rise faster in 2019/20 as investment through the NHS long-term plan and the five-year GP contract deal take effect.

Dr Vautrey said: 'Earlier this year, the government – as part of the NHS long-term plan – promised that investment in primary care will grow faster than the overall NHS budget, and it is vital that this is realised if it is to make a difference to services, staff and patients.

'However, this year’s contract agreement, which is not reflected in today’s figures, will see almost £2.8bn invested in practices and networks over the next five years, which will hopefully provide general practice with the footing it needs to carve a path towards sustainability.

'With this additional funding, and through practices working more closely together with an expanded healthcare team, we hope that we will start to see some of the pressures facing GPs and their staff being addressed – ultimately improving the quality and safety of care for patients.'

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