NHS England must urgently address its ‘scandalous’ failure to pass promised GP resilience funding down to the front line.
That is the warning from doctors leaders after a BMA survey revealed the promised £40 million fund is not yet finding its way to GP surgeries in need.
The survey of local medical committees found that in February this year, practices had only been identified and notified of their receipt of resilience funding in just over half of the areas that responded – 24 out of 40. And of these, funding had found its way to the front line in only 16.
The BMA GPs committee has written to NHS England calling for immediate action – warning that the funding must be retained, ring-fenced and sent to practices that need support before patients are affected or surgeries forced to close.
BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The resilience funding is a key element of the GP Forward View aimed at supporting practices that are under incredible pressure from rising demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages.
‘It is completely unacceptable that the BMA’s survey shows that a postcode lottery has developed, with wide disparities over where the funding is being practically delivered. This is scandalous given that CCGs were allocated these funds in the autumn and under the Government’s promised plan, practices should have been notified by December if they were eligible, with the resources supposedly arriving this month. In many cases these deadlines are being completely missed.
‘The BMA has written to NHS England asking them to urgently address this serious operational failure. This funding must be retained and ring-fenced for its intended purpose and not lost from CCG budgets due to their failure to spend it in this financial year.
‘It is vital that every eligible practice should have access to this vital support, to prevent any adverse effects on patient services, or even in some cases practices closing.’
Essential support for struggling practices
The GP resilience fund, which intended to help struggling GP practices, was launched last year as part of a series of support packages announced by NHS England.
It was announced as a four-year £40 million resilience fund – with £16 million available this financial year and £8 million for each of the next three years.
The fund, part of a raft of proposals set out in the GPFV (General Practice Forward View), was supposed to provide support for practices to become more resilient and sustainable, better placed to tackle the challenges they face now and in the future, and securing continuing high-quality care for patients.
The BMA letter sent to NHS England director of commissioning Ros Roughton says: ‘The GPFV Practice Resilience programme funding is a key resource and it is vital that it reaches practices as soon as possible.
‘We are aware from data shared by NHS England that over £11 million funding for this programme is yet to be spent (as of February 2017). We believe this may be an underestimate since we have heard of anecdotes where, even where CCGs have claimed allocation of funds, practices have not been notified accordingly.
‘It is vital that this essential resource to support practices under the greatest of pressures is not lost to general practice due to the problems in local deployment of this funding.
‘We would be grateful if you could clarify what plans are in place to ensure we are absolutely clear of the level of funding that has not been released to practices, and how any unspent funds will be allocated to practices, which we believe must be ring-fenced and made available if necessary in 2017/18.’
Find out more about the GP resilience fund
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