Last week, NHS England (NHSE) announced a package of support and funding on investment, workforce, workload, infrastructure and care redesign. The General Practice Forward View (GPFV) details a wide ranging set of support measures which aim to support and transform general practice. It comes at a time when the profession is struggling to cope with increasing demand and a recruitment crisis and is increasingly reliant on temporary staff.
The document promises an increase in the level of investment in primary care - a further £2.4 billion a year by 2020/21 into general practice services. This represents a 14 per cent real terms increase. The GPFV recognises that primary care over the past decade has been underfunded compared to secondary care and that this must change.
The GP strategy plans to double the rate of growth of the medical workforce to create an extra 5,000 additional doctors working in general practice by 2020. This will include 500 recruited from overseas and 500 doctors who have left general practice being encouraged to come back.
GP workload has been identified as the single biggest issue for GPs and their staff in a recent BMA survey. NHSE is therefore taking immediate action to help reduce the practice burdens, such as beginning with changes to the NHS standard contract from April 2016 (which will help improve the interface between hospitals and general practice) and a move to five yearly CQC inspections for good and outstanding practices.
There is also a commitment to develop the primary care estate and speed up the delivery of capital projects, including new rules on premises costs to enable NHSE to fund up to 100 per cent of the costs for premises developments, an increase from a previous cap on NHSE funding of 66 percent effective from September 2016.
On the issue of general practice structure, it is becoming increasingly normal for practices to consolidate with the creation of a number of federated practices and networks while others work collaboratively in larger groups for the benefit of the larger populations. The introduction of the new voluntary Multispeciality Community Provider contract from April 2017 to integrate general practice services with community services and wider health services is intended to support the redesign of general practice.
In the same week for general practice, the Health Select Committee published its report on the challenges facing the primary care sector. It looks at the long-term solutions which can improve access to services and the Government’s commitment to seven day access to services and patient care, especially in light of the workforce shortfall. The challenge for the Government and NHSE is “to implement the necessary change at scale and pace”