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CCGs told to deliver extra funding for GPs

RCGP says CCGs must use funding powers to ‘reverse decline’ in general practice

Mark Gould

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says three pots of Government funding - two of which are overseen by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) - can inject much-needed and long-overdue investment into general practice.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker has written to the leaders of England's 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups urging them to use their funding powers wisely to reverse the decline in general practice and deliver improvements in patient care - including the move towards an "accountable GP" for vulnerable elderly people.

In her letter, Dr Baker asks CCGs to reveal how they are planning to use these funding streams and whether their plans involve investing in services provided by general practice and vital 'wrap around' services in the community.

The three areas of potential funding are: 

  • The Better Care Fund: the former Integration Transformation Fund of £3.8bn announced by the Government in the June 2013 spending round to support more integrated services across health and social care. NHS England has explicitly assured RCGP that CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards will be able to use money from the Fund to commission new services from general practice. 

  • The £5 per patient allocation to enable ‘accountable GPs’ to secure improved services for vulnerable older people: NHS England stated in its December 2013 board meeting papers that CCGs will be asked to set aside funding - around £5 per head of the population in their area and potentially worth £250m – to be spent on commissioning additional services which practices, individually or collectively, have identified to further support the 'accountable GP' in proactively managing care outside hospital. 

  • The Prime Minister’s £50m Challenge Fund: it was announced in October last year to stimulate and share innovative ways of providing primary care services. Practices are currently being invited to bid to become pilot sites as part of this initiative.

Dr Baker said: "A chronic lack of investment in general practice is compromising patient care across the whole NHS. As we approach a new financial year, Clinical Commissioning Groups will have a vital opportunity to provide general practice with the boost in resources it needs to drive improvements in patient care. Two upcoming initiatives – the Better Care Fund and funding to support additional services to improve care for vulnerable older people – are mechanisms through which CCGs can and should invest in general practice in their local areas. In a recent RCGP poll, four out of five GPs said they were concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to deliver continuity of care to vulnerable elderly people due to cuts in funding.

"We understand that resources are tight across the NHS and CCGs are facing the difficult challenge of ensuring proper investment in a range of services whilst balancing an extremely tight budget. In the context of an ageing population with patients increasingly living with multiple long-term conditions, we believe there is a strong case for investing in the generalist skills that GPs and their teams provide. We are campaigning for a wider shift of investment towards the front line of care in the community to help reduce the burden on hospitals and the NHS as a whole.

"Funding for general practice in England has reached its lowest point on record – down to just 8.5% of the NHS budget compared to 10.95% eight years ago. This has happened at a time when demand for GP services has risen rapidly – from 300m consultations in 2008 to an estimated 340m today.  

"That is why we have launched the Put patients first: Back general practice campaign, in partnership with the National Association of Patient Participation, to highlight the impact that this funding squeeze is having on patients and the NHS as a whole. We are campaigning for the share of the NHS budget spent on general practice to be increased to 11% by 2017."

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