Responding to the latest ‘Investment in General Practice’ report from NHS Digital1, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:
“For too long investment has not kept up with the demands being placed on general practice, and the marginal increase in the year up to April this year – itself far smaller than in previous years – is completely inadequate. Over the same time period the number of patients registered at practices in England went up by more than 700,000 and we lost more than 440 full-time equivalent GPs – meaning doctors and their teams are being stretched to their limits.
“What is further frustrating is that the data does not accurately represent the money reaching practices and patients. Rather, it includes other elements such as drug reimbursement and services in hospitals – and such potentially misleading information is not helpful at all.
“Today’s real figure of £10.5bn in England – a disappointing 1.4% increase on the previous year – represents just 8.1% of the NHS budget going to general practice, falling far short of the BMA’s demand of 11%.
“Practices are struggling with outdated IT, and surgery buildings that are not fit for purpose – yet today’s figures underline how investment in these two particular areas is completely lacking. If we want to provide patients with care fit for their needs in the 21st century, we need investment and the resources to do it.
“Other figures today2 show that practices receive just under £155 a year on average per patient to provide virtually unlimited care. Not only is this astonishing value for money for the Government, but it also demonstrates how hard GPs are working to care for patients in their area, many of whom will have a series of complex conditions, with inadequate investment in return.
“Earlier this year, the Government – as part of the NHS long-term plan – promised that investment in primary care will grow faster than the overall NHS budget, and it is vital that this is realised if it is to make a difference to services, staff and patients.
“However, this year’s contract agreement, which is not reflected in today’s figures, will see almost £2.8bn invested in practices and networks over the next five years, which will hopefully provide general practice with the footing it needs to carve a path towards sustainability. With this additional funding, and through practices working more closely together with an expanded healthcare team, we hope that we will start to see some of the pressures facing GPs and their staff being addressed – ultimately improving the quality and safety of care for patients.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
1. Full report available here.
2. ‘NHS Payments to General Practice - England, 2018/19’, available here.