GP leaders are continuing to pile on the pressure for extra funds for general practice in order to avert a crisis and help improve patient care.
Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), has written to all 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England urging them to "use their funding powers wisely" in order to pull back the decline in funds which, it is claimed, is compromising patient care.
The RCGP is leaning on CCGs to divert extra cash from two 'pots' of Government funding that it argues have the potential to help inject "much-needed and long-overdue investment" into the field to transform the current provision of care:
The Better Care Fund - the RCGP says it has been "explicitly assured" by NHS England that CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards can use money from this Fund to commission new services from general practice; and
The £5 per patient allocation to enable the provision of ‘accountable GPs’ to vulnerable older people - NHS England recently said that CCGs will be asked to set aside funding (around £5 per head of the population in their area) to pay for additional services which practices have identified to further support the 'accountable GP' in managing care outside of hospital.
Also presenting an opportunity is the recently announced £50 million Challenge Fund, designed to stimulate and share innovative ways of providing primary care services, for which practices are being invited to bid to become pilot sites.
GP funding hits all-time low
The RCGP's call for cash comes on the back of findings that funding for general practice in England has reached "its lowest point on record", slipping to just 8.5% of the NHS budget compared to 10.95% eight years ago.
And this at a time when demand for GP services has "risen rapidly – from 300 million consultations in 2008 to an estimated 340 million today", highlighting the growing gap and potential impact on patients.
To that end, the College is running a campaign - 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 and to bag an 11% share of the NHS budget by 2017.