Out-of-hours and LES cuts hit UK GPs

Funding for UK general practice rose by less than half of 1% in 2010/11, official NHS data have revealed.

John Appleby: funding warning (Photograph: King's Fund)
John Appleby: funding warning (Photograph: King's Fund)

But the cash rise translates into a real-terms loss once inflation is taken into account, a health economist warned.

Spending in England rose by just 0.3% in 2010/11, while Scotland saw a 1.7% rise and Wales a 0.7% rise.

Total funding for Northern Ireland fell by 1.5%, the data showed.

King's Fund chief economist John Appleby warned that because of inflation, England's 0.3% rise translates into 'a cut of roughly 2.5%' in real terms.

Overall £9.789 billion was invested in general practice in the UK, compared with £9.748 billion in 2009/10 - a 0.4% increase.

England and Northern Ireland saw significant cuts in spending on out-of-hours. Funding in England fell by £6.6 million (1.7%) and Northern Ireland saw a £448,000 (2.1%) cut.

Across the UK, QOF, global sum and MPIG spending increased. QOF spending in England increased from £1.079 billion in 2009/10 to £1.095 billion in 2010/11.

However, local enhanced services (LES) investment dropped in 2010/11 in all UK countries apart from Scotland.

England saw the biggest drop in funding, with a total reduction of £58 million in 2010/11 compared with 2009/10.

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'PCTs are looking for short-term savings by cutting local services.'

He warned that patient care would suffer if PCTs clawed back funding from local services.

Despite an overall decrease in funding for general practice, the figures showed an increase in APMS funding in England of 32.8%.

Dr Vautrey said this showed a rise in investment in APMS services, such as Darzi centres, which 'wasn't necessarily value for money'.

'It would have been much better value for money investing in existing practices,' he said.

Dr Vautrey urged the DoH to invest in GP services or risk missing its £20 billion savings targets. 'The reality for the health service as a whole is that we have to invest in general practice to make savings overall.'

GP FUNDING 2010/11
  • England: 0.3% increase.
  • Scotland: 1.7% increase.
  • Wales: 0.7% increase.
  • Northern Ireland: 1.5% decrease.
Source: NHS Information Centre

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