Jeremy Hunt will set out GP funding plans in letter to practices

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will outline GP funding plans for the coming years in a letter to all practices after the spending review concludes in November, MPs heard on Tuesday.

Speaking at a health committee meeting on Tuesday, Mr Hunt said he would inform every GP surgery how much will be invested into general practice once the figures have been finalised with the Treasury in November.

He said: 'My intention is at the end of the year or thereabouts we will write to every GP, post-spending round, to say this is the spending profile for the next few years, this is the spending that will go into general practice.’

The health secretary acknowledged that financial pressures facing the NHS were ‘the worst ever in its history’ and said it was time to be ‘ambitious’ to take on the ‘massive challenges’.

GP funding cuts

Mr Hunt said he was aware that total GP funding had fallen for three years in a row, which has left many practices struggling to cope.

When quizzed by MPs as to whether GPs could be given extra funds to help ‘bail out’ practices on the brink, he said: ‘I'm just a bit nervous about phrase bailout. If you’ve got a surgery that’s got real challenges, will there be cases where they need funding to turn a corner? There may be, and we do do that.’

But he added that the government 'would be mad' not to do something about the underinvesment in general practice.

He went on to say that he ‘recognised a problem’ with GP premises, and pointed out that £750m of the £1bn infrastructure fund has yet to be invested.

But he stressed that the infrastructure fund was ‘not an instant solution’ for practices struggling with capacity problems.

'The broader problem is that the balance of incentives as it is now tends to suck money out of primary care and into hospitals. That is essentially because the public benchmark of success in the NHS has been a few targets – A&E and waiting times. Part of the way to change that is to have a more balanced view of what matters in the NHS.'

Seven-day GP services

Mr Hunt was firm that developing seven-day GP services was ‘achievable during the course of this parliament’, despite chronic funding and workforce pressures.

‘But this is much bigger thing than just offering the public the chance to book evening and weekend appointments,’ he said. ‘Potentially around 20% of the £22bn savings we need to find will come through new models of care where we catch illnesses earlier by nipping things in the bud and stopping patients going to hospitals. That means backing GPs to do what only they can do.’

But he admitted that the government does not have the starting capital to launch new models of care, and other savings must be made first to allow this shift to take place.

‘We have to be honest with the NHS and say we don’t have the resources to invest all the money that’s needed for all models in the new system while all old models continue – so we will need to find some of that money through efficiency savings.’

Photo: iStock

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