GP leaders have welcomed a multi-billion-pound transformation plan for general practice in England, which has been hailed as “the most significant piece of news” for the profession since the 1960s.
Central to the plans is the unprecedented pledge to increase funding for general practice to over 10 percent of the NHS budget by 2020, with an extra £2.4 billion a year promised by 2020/21 to help improve patient care and access, and invest in new ways of providing primary care.
This means spending will rise from £9.6 billion in 2016/17 to over £12 billion by 2021 - a 14 percent real terms increase, which will also be supplemented by a £500 million national ‘turnaround’ package to support GP practices, and additional funds from local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
This will include a £10 million investment to support the most vulnerable GP practices, a new £112 million offer to enable every practice to access a clinical pharmacist, leading to an estimated 1,500 additional pharmacists in general practice by 2020, and a £16 million extra investment in specialist mental health services to support family doctors suffering with burn out and stress.
The General Practice Forward Review, developed alongside Health Education England and in discussion with the Royal College of GPs and other GP representatives, also lays out specific, practical and funded steps to strengthen workforce, drive efficiencies in workload, modernise infrastructure and technology, and redesign the way modern primary care is offered to patients, officials said.
It says £206 million will be spent on expanding the general practice workforce by 5,000 doctors and a minimum of 5,000 other members of the team by 2020/21, and offers direct funding for improved in hours and out of hours access, including clinical hubs and reformed urgent care, as well as a new voluntary GP contract supporting integrated primary and community health services.
“We are acutely aware of the pressures GPs are facing right now and the need to get on track as quickly as possible,” said Arvind Madan, NHS England Director of Primary Care and a Tower Hamlets GP. “This means that practices, working together, will benefit from access to support if they are struggling to meet patient’s needs, reductions in unnecessary workload, more opportunities to recruit staff and a chance to improve use of their technology or premises”.
"Today’s announcement is a huge and important step in the right direction, and if implemented correctly, our profession, the wider NHS, and most importantly, our patients will reap the benefits,” said Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, which has long been leading a campaign for an increase in sector funding.
"Crucially, it will send a loud and clear message to those about to embark on a career in general practice, and medical students considering it, that their future as a GP will be attractive and secure,” she noted.