NHS England is 'ahead of target' for increasing GP funding after £580m boost

NHS England has said it is ahead of target for increasing funding for GPs after official data showed it had spent an extra £580m on general practice last year.

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

Data from NHS Digital showed that NHS England invested £10.8bn in general practice in 2017/18, a real terms increase of 3.9% on the previous 12 months.

However, NHS Digital pointed out that the figures include funding that contributes to overall primary care investment, but which does 'not reach GP practices', including payments for IT, out-of-hours services, some centrally-led elements of the GP Forward View and investment for GP services in A&E.

NHS England said the figures showed that funding was ‘2.8% ahead of the planned trajectory outlined in the GP Forward View’ and that it was ‘ahead of schedule’ on plans to invest £12bn a year into general practice by 2020.

It added that this was the fifth year in a row that general practice had seen a real terms increase in investment and that there had been real terms growth in funding of 17.8% since 2013.

Funding increase

The NHS Digital figures also revealed that funding for general practice in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had increased in 2017/18:

  • Wales received £544m - a 4.6% real terms increase on 2016/17.
  • Scotland received £932m - a 3.2% real terms increase on 2016/17
  • Northern Ireland received £284m - a 1.36% real terms increase on 2016/17

However, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘While it is positive to see an increase in investment, it is still not enough to ensure the sustainability of general practice and its capacity to meet the growing needs of patients.

’It is also worth noting that today’s headline figure is not reflective of the money reaching practices – as it also includes other initiatives including services in A&E departments. Today’s real investment figure of £10.2bn (an increase of 4.4% since last year) represents 8.1% of the NHS budget going to general practice – falling £3.6bn short of the BMA’s target of 11%.

'A general practice supported by 11% of the NHS budget could offer greater continuity of care to patients, and would be able to help deliver a more sustainable future for the NHS as a whole.’

GP Forward View

NHS England highlighted that investment in GP Forward View-funded programmes was £511m in 2017/18 - an increase of £125m on what had been spent in 2016/17. This included:

  • £160m invested through the Estates and Technology Fund - a 17% increase on the previous year.
  • £144m invested in improving access to GP services for patients - an 18% increase on the previous year
  • £77m on programmes to expand the general practice workforce, including introducing new roles to primary care - a 62% increase on the previous year.

The GP Forward View, which was published in April 2016, promised to increase annual investment in general practice by at least £2.4bn a year by 2020/21.

However, a BMA progress report on the programme published in June this year said that it had failed to make a major impact on recruitment and retention or workload in primary care. The BMA also questioned whether funding promised under the programme was reaching practices.

Meanwhile, the RCGP's second annual assessment of the GP Forward View, published in August, found that the programme needed an 'urgent overhaul' and an extra £2.5bn investment if it was to have an impact that was to be felt by doctors on the frontline.

NHS England acting director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘GPs are at the heart of the NHS and the sustained, and significant general practice funding increases in each of the past five years are helping general practice respond to the rapidly growing needs of an expanding and aging population. 

‘As part of the NHS long-term plan we will be recruiting more trainee doctors, widening people’s access to appointments and continuing to integrate GP surgeries with mental health, community and hospital services.’

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