NHS bosses confirm £40m cuts to GP payment service

NHS England has published plans for outsourcing and cuts to primary care support services.

Dr Richard Vautrey: critical of planned family health services cuts
Dr Richard Vautrey: critical of planned family health services cuts

Back-office functions provided by these teams, also known as family health services (FHS), include GP payments and administration of medical records, performers lists and patient registration.

The services were previously run by PCTs but handed to NHS England in April’s reorganisation.

The plans could see the number of regional FHS offices slashed from 37 to 12, and savings of £40m targeted from a £100m budget. The plans could be implemented by September 2014.

There could also be further outsourcing of services in future, with NHS England becoming a commissioner rather than provider of the functions, NHS England's board papers revealed.

Currently around 30% of NHS England's 27 area teams provide primary care support services in-house, with the rest outsourced to either NHS Shared Business Services, or private providers such as Serco.

The cuts and outsourcing were first revealed exclusively by GP in September. At the time, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey condemned the plans as bizarre at a time when many practices faced 'desperate' cash-flow problems caused by delayed payments.

Papers published ahead of an NHS England board meeting on Friday reveal for the first time the extent of the planned cuts.

The documents said there would be ‘significant rationalisation’ of offices and staff levels and the development of improved services with a common specification.

Dr Vautrey told GP in September that NHS bosses should not even consider cutting the service while payment problems continued.

‘It is clear that in many parts of the country the system is struggling both in terms of capacity and ability to deliver a quality service. And yet, if there are attempts to actually reduce that service, it could actually make the system worse.

‘They need to get the system up and running first before any thoughts about whether it can be made more efficient or not.’

He said it was ‘quite bizarre’ that officials were suggesting an efficiency review ‘at a time when large numbers of practices are not getting paid properly’.

‘The payment system since transition has been horrendous in many areas, causing significant cash flow problems.’

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