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Government failing to meet targets on GP funding in England warns BMA

The government is falling short of its promised pledge to invest more in GP services according to a new BMA analysis of the latest funding figures released by NHS Digital.

The BMA’s report, Investment in General Practice in England, shows that despite some increases in funding allocated to GP practices:

  • The health service spend on GP services as a proportion of the NHS budget is still below the level it was at a decade ago, with 7.9% of overall NHS investment going to general practice in 2016/17 compared to 9.6% in 2005/06. This means general practice is receiving £2 billion less than it would have been had spending been maintained at 2005/06 levels.
  • The government is not meeting the widely accepted target of 11% of the overall NHS budget being allocated to general practice. It is currently £3.7 billion short of meeting this commitment.
  • The rate of the increase in spending on general practice slowed last year, falling from 5 per cent in 2015/16 to three per cent in 2016/17 despite government promises of an acceleration in funding during this period.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:

 “The BMA’s GP committee successfully secured an additional £321 million for general practice in England in the past year and whilst that has helped struggling practices it will take far greater levels of sustained investment to resolve the pressures on local GP services.  With rapidly rising workload pressures, practices cannot be expected to deliver a comprehensive service for as little as £151 per patient per year.

“As the new figures in the BMA’s latest analysis of NHS spending on general practice show, the proportion of NHS funding going into GP services has fallen from 9.6% in 2005/6 to 7.9% in 2016/17. GP services are effectively facing a £3.7 billion funding shortfall because the government has not reached the widely accepted goal of allocating 11% of NHS investment to general practice. The rate of extra investment has also noticeably slowed in the past year despite government promises of an acceleration in resources directed to frontline patient care during the same period.

“In this climate, many GP practices in England are struggling to cope with rising patient demand that is far outstripping current resources, especially as the profession is facing widespread staff shortages. Recent BMA surveys have shown that a third of practices have vacancies unfilled for over a year and nine out of ten GPs report their workload as unmanageable. More than half of GP practices feel they are under so much strain they are considering applying to have their practice list closed by NHS England. This is a shocking state of affairs that cannot be allowed to go on.

“Patients need the government to step up its funding commitment to general practice and deliver with greater speed its promised extra investment so that GP services are able to keep pace with the rising expectations and needs of the public.”

 The BMA’s new analysis can be read here and NHS Digital’s funding figures can be read here.

Ends

Notes to Editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional association and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.

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