Family doctors have warned that the NHS needs an emergency cash injection of £2.5bn to help struggling surgeries cope with demand and offer patients appointments within a reasonable time.
Profession leaders want NHS bosses to put aside some of the extra cash into improving the services offered by England’s 7,150 GP practices.
Under current plans, GP services are due to receive £12bn of the NHS budget by 2020-21. But the RCGP believes that should be revised to £14.5bn.
In his first speech last month as the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock announced improving the NHS workforce and redoubling efforts to prevent illness as key priorities.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said that backing the college’s £2.5bn plea would demonstrate his determination to do both, given GP understaffing and their central role in promoting good health.
“If he is serious about tackling the workforce crisis and keeping patients out of hospital, it is essential that the government invests properly in general practice,” she said.
The GP Forward View policy document published by NHS England in 2016 pledged to increase the proportion of the NHS budget going into GP services to at least 10% by 2021. However, without upping total investment to £14.5bn by that date, its share will fall to 8.9%, Stokes-Lampard added. “It is now time for us to go above and beyond the original GP Forward View,” she said.
“We believe that at least £14.5bn is necessary – an extra £2.5bn a year on top of what has been promised. Only then will we be able to continue to guarantee the safe care our patients need and deserve, close to home where they want it most, away from hospitals where care is more expensive.”
There are 1,000 fewer GPs in England than there were in 2015, despite the government’s pledge to increase their number by 5,000 by 2020.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We recognise the invaluable contribution of GPs and we are determined to support them in every way. That’s why we’re investing an extra £2.4bn a year into general practice by 2020-21 and a record number of doctors are in training.”
“As part of our long-term plan for the NHS, we are increasing overall funding by an average of 3.4% per year, meaning that by 2023-24 it will receive £20.5bn a year more than it currently does.”