More than half of GP partners say financial security has dropped in the past year

More than half of partners say the financial security of their GP practice has fallen over the past 12 months, a GPonline survey reveals.

(Photo: iStock.com/lister_photography)
(Photo: iStock.com/lister_photography)

A total of 55% of GP partners who responded to the poll said their practice felt less financially secure now than a year ago. Just 6% said their practice felt more secure financially, with around a third reporting 'no change' and a small proportion unsure.

Three quarters of the 202 GP partners who took part in the survey said their practice had not felt a positive impact from either GP Forward View funding or additional investment through the GP contract over the past two years.

The survey findings follow figures on payments to general practice published by NHS Digital, which show that GP practices received £152.04 per weighted patient in 2017/18 - almost unchanged from the £151.37 they received in the previous financial year.

GP partners

Numbers of GP partners remain in freefall, with more than 1,800 lost to the profession in the two years to September 2018 - a drop of 8%.

GPonline also revealed earlier this year that more than 1,100 GP practices have closed or merged since NHS England became operational in April 2013, affecting more than 4m patients.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'These findings are not surprising as they reflect the experience we hear from many practices, that the funding they have received in recent years is not significantly addressing their workload and workforce pressures.

'It’s understandable therefore that they are not convinced that the promises made by government will resolve these fundamental issues. It’s why government has to take the crisis we have seriously and match their verbal support for general practice with real and significant investment that is able to make a tangible difference.'

Funding cuts

Partners responding to the survey highlighted funding cuts, heavy workload, recruitment problems and being forced to put huge effort into chasing multiple funding streams to stay afloat.

One respondent said: 'Our earnings continue to reduce and have dropped dramatically in the last few years. We had to employ a pharmacist ourselves as the Five Year Forward View scheme was not fit for purpose. We have had an increase in funding but increased our staff costs. We feel we get penalised for providing quality care in a deprived area with a high chronic disease burden.'

Another GP partner said funding at her practice 'has gone down by about 25% in the past four years'. She added: 'Best and cheapest service in the NHS and the government is setting it up to fail. Part of the privatisation plan I would say.'

One GP wrote: 'We struggle to pay our staff for the work that they do. We compete for funding in winter with commercial pharmacies for flu vaccine payments and lose out. We struggle to maintain the existing service and cannot provide more without significant extra funding to pay for it.'

Policymakers were 'living in cloud cuckoo land', one respondent said. 'The entire NHS relies on the goodwill of GP partners who are leaving the profession in droves. Far too much focus has been on funding extended access and not shoring up the core service.'

One 35-year-old GP said he planned to leave the country 'in the next few months' because no action was being taken and there appeared to be no desire to make partnership more attractive.

A final report on the government-commissioned review to revitalise the GP partnership model is expected this month. Its chair Dr Nigel Watson has called on the government to create financial incentives for GPs to choose partnerships over locum work.

In November the government announced that primary and community care would receive a £3.5bn real-terms increase in funding by 2023/24 as part of the government's long-term plan for the NHS, which is also due to be published this month. However, it is unclear whether any of this funding has been earmarked for the GP contract.

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