Doctors’ leaders have questioned the true value of funds allocated for primary care trusts for 2011/12 in the lead-up to GP commissioning.
The move follows the government’s publication yesterday of PCT funding allocations and the NHS Operating Framework for 2011/12, setting out what the NHS will need to do to prepare for the transition to GP commissioning in 2013.
This includes improving performance; better integration between health and social care; the streamlining of PCTs into clusters, working with GP practices and emerging GP consortia on commissioning as well as the need to cut running costs.
The Framework specifies that GP consortia will get £2 per head of the population to support their development, and that hospitals will be responsible for any readmissions within 30 days of discharge.
In anticipation of the establishment of the NHS Commissioning Board, which will operate in shadow form from next year before going live in 2012, 31 new quality standards will also be produced to add to the 15 currently in development.
The number of best practice tariffs will be expanded, with new currencies introduced for services, such as adult and neonatal intensive care, smoking cessation, and podiatry. Contracts will be revised to pave the way for the introduction of choice of Any Willing Provider.
The Operating Framework also asks the NHS to prioritise the implementation of earlier diagnosis for cancer patients, in a bid to potentially save thousands of lives. And it promises to put employers at the heart of new arrangements for workforce planning, education, and training.
The government announced that £89 billion would be allocated to PCTs for commissioning frontline services, including dentistry, ophthalmic and pharmacy care as well as, for the first time, money for social care services. This represented an increase of £2.6bn or an average boost of 3% in real terms, it said.
Making the announcement, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Our commitment means that funding for the NHS will increase every year. I am proud that we are living up to our commitment to the NHS – the total allocations to [PCTs] will increase next year by 3% on average, with not less than 2.5% and up to 4.9% increase for individual PCTs. It provides a strong platform to sustain and improve NHS services.”
But Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, was sceptical. Patients were already feeling the effects of the efficiency savings, which meant widespread cuts to services, he suggested.
“Given the latest inflation figures, we do not accept the government’s claim that it is increasing real terms funding for the NHS,” he said. “The stated 3% “increase” in funding for PCTs includes £1 billion already announced to cover additional social care responsibilities and masks the fact that hospitals will have to do a lot more work to achieve the same income.”
In a 33 page accompanying letter sent out to NHS Chiefs, fleshing out the detail of the transition period, NHS Chief Executive, David Nicholson writes: “This is a broad and complex agenda and a significant leadership challenge for us all.”
He added that this was being undertaken during considerable organisational upheaval and winter pressures.
“We must meet these challenges at a time when staff and leaders across the NHS face personal and professional uncertainty about their futures. I do not underestimate the scale of what lies ahead, but I have confidence, based on our track record of deliver, that we can succeed.”