Primary care is being 'crushed' despite huge NHS surplus

GP leaders have hit out at 'unacceptable' underspending by the DH after ministers revealed a £2bn budget surplus.

Funding: NHS surplus angers cash-strapped primary care
Funding: NHS surplus angers cash-strapped primary care

The DH revealed a total underspend in excess of £2bn in accounts published this week which will be handed back to the Treasury to use for deficit reduction.

Essex LMC chief executive, Dr Brian Balmer said primary care was being ‘crushed’ by spending restrictions, and it was ‘clearly not true’ for NHS England to say there was no money available.

GPC deputy chairman, Dr Richard Vautrey, said minsters should 'immediately' look to reinvest the cash in patient services.

The DH’s 2012/13 accounts show a total underspend of £2.24bn, up from £1.4bn last year, on a total expenditure budget of £106.6bn.

The underspend will be handed back to the chancellor. ‘This will help in wider fiscal deficit reduction during this unprecedented period of fiscal challenge,' the accounts note.

However, £1.5bn will be made available to NHS England to spend over future years.

The department's capital budget underspend was £713m (15.9%), up from £581m (13.4%) in 2011/12. This underspend was due to incorrect capital forecasts which the department said it is working with Monitor and NHS bodies to improve.

Dr Balmer said GPs should be told why, if the NHS has underspent by half a billion pounds, there was no money available for services.

‘Why are the area teams telling us every week there is no money for everything, such that primary care is being crushed?

‘I would just love to know why we are being told there is no money, when clearly it is not true,' he said.

Dr Vautrey said: 'All parts of the NHS are under severe pressure from rising workload and contracting budgets. GPs are being asked to do more with less after imposed changes to the GP contract cut average practice funding, while many hospital services, including emergency care, are suffering from staff shortages and seeing rising levels of patient demand.

'Given this climate, the DH should immediately look to reinvest the projected overspend in patient services. It is not acceptable for this additional money to be held back when the NHS is struggling to cope with its current challenges.'

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