GPs could be denied £800m over next four years, warns RCGP chair

General practice could lose £33m in 2016/17 due to CCG underspending, and up to £760m by 2020 as a result of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), RCGP chair Professor Maureen Baker told the college's annual conference on Thursday.

RCGP analysis of CCG budgets, which were published last month, reveals that they are on track to underspend their budgets on general practice by £33m this financial year.

Dr Baker also said that few of England’s 44 STPs that the college has seen have drawn up plans to boost investment in general practice. This is despite the fact that NHS guidance says that STPs should invest £760m extra funding into general practice.

In her final conference speech as college chair Dr Baker warned that STPs are currently too focused on acute deficits. She said that NHS England should refuse to transfer funding to STPs that do not increase investment into general practice.

She also called on NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to publish details of all STPs.

Podcast: What do STPs mean for general practice in England?

Dr Baker said: ‘The college has strongly supported the formation of the STPs as a critically important new initiative in the NHS that can function as regional engine rooms for a more collaborative approach to shaping services and dealing with challenges, such as the huge increase in multiple long-term conditions within the patient population nationwide.

‘The STPs will play a crucial role in shaping the future development of the NHS over the next five years. However, strengthening general practice should be at the heart of what they are about.

‘But in many areas RCGP local representatives are struggling against an agenda that is focused on plugging ever increasing hospital deficits.

‘This is a false vision which may seem to offer short term gain, but if general practice isn't supported then there is no system transformation and we will very quickly be back where we started.’

She added: ‘Based on the limited information about STPs that has been published, very few contain specific pledges to earmark extra funding for general practice. Some barely acknowledge general practice at all.

‘If STP plans fail to deliver the funding for general practice – from the Sustainability and Transformation Fund – then the family doctor service stands to lose up to £760m in 2020/21.

‘So, I call on Simon Stevens to require all STPs to publish their financial plans, and to make crystal clear that unless they commit to invest more in general practice, through the Sustainability and Transformation Fund, their plans will be rejected and responsibility for the fund regionally will be withheld from the non-compliant STPs.'

Dr Baker said that the failure of CCGs to spend money earmarked for general practice on general practice was a ‘national disgrace’.

She told delegates that the college will be contacting CCGs after the conference to tell them to use their budgets to provide better local support for GPs.

Full coverage from the RCGP annual conference

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