Practices merging and increasing skill mix to cope with pressure

Growing numbers of GP practices are working at scale, increasing skill mix and dropping unfunded work to cope with growing pressure on primary care, according to a snapshot poll by a think tank.

Just 16% of GP respondents to a King's Fund poll as part of its quarterly monitoring report on NHS performance said their financial situation was good. More than half (53%) said their situation was sustainable but profits were falling - forcing partners to reduce their pay.

More than one in three practices facing financial pressure were considering pay cuts for partners, a third were planning to reduce locum cover - and more than half planned to stop providing unfunded services such as ECG recording or suture removal.

The findings provide further evidence of the pressure facing general practice ahead of the 8 June general election. GPonline reported in November 2016 that one in 10 GP partners believed their practice could be forced to close over the next 12 months because of pressure from underfunding, workforce or workload issues.

GP funding

Thousands of GP practices continue to provide services worth millions of pounds without funding, recent GPonline investigations have revealed.

The King's Fund polling found that almost two thirds of GP respondents were considering changing staff mix at their practice, including reducing the proportion of staff who were GPs and hiring more nursing or non-medical staff.

Three in five practices were planning to merge or join federations to cope with pressure - with ability to bid for contracts and financial security the top reasons given by GPs for taking this step. Practices also reported feeling that national and local policy was driving them towards mergers.

The King's Fund report also found that GP contacts with patients had risen sharply over the past two years - up 7.5% from 2014/15 to 2016/17.

Photo: Simon Barber

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