Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, has set out his plan for the future of General Practice in the UK and it includes a sizeable investment in the area designed to alleviate pressures on ‘overworked’ GPs. We highlight below some of the key changes being put forward by the plan.
The key headline from the report is that by 2020 the budget for GPs will increase by £2.4bn which will see the annual spend on the 7,900 GP practices jump to £12bn. The plan also includes an ambition to increase the number of non-medical staff in surgeries by 2020 and to reduce the need for patients to attend GP practices. This additional staffing figure will include NHS pharmacists, mental health therapists and practice nurses.
In a move that echoes wishes of the General Practitioners Committee, to place a cap on the number of admissions to GPs in any given day, hospitals will not be able to give GPs too much work. This will be achieved by the amendment of the NHS Standard Contract for Hospitals in relation to Hospital/GP interaction, removing layers of bureaucracy created. For example, when a patient missed an appointment at the hospital previously they would have had to book another appointment with the GP before going back to hospital for the same appointment; such anomalies have now been addressed thus freeing up GP time.
GP surgeries that achieve a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rating from CQC will only be inspected every five years following CQC’s completion of its first-round inspections of all GP surgeries. This is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2016. This will work to further reduce the regulatory burden on practices- another concern previously raised by GPs.
There is also a £16m fund which has been set up to support GPs suffering from stress. In addition, a national fund of £508m has been created to support struggling practices and assist them in their short and longer term goals.
The plan for the future of GPs is also an entrepreneurial one, one which looks to nurture those practices that are successful and lift those that are struggling. Investment will reach almost £1bn in the estates and infrastructure of GPs; NHS England has agreed to pay for the Stamp Duty Land Tax of those tenants signing leases from May 2016- October 2017. There will also be significant investment in IT in practices.
Potential patients will be encouraged to ‘self-care’ using resources such as the internet that can be accessed away from the GP setting. The drive is to increase the capacity of GPs by directing demand through alternative means inclusive of the both online tools to help individuals as well as non-GP healthcare staff.
Commentary on this strategy in relation to GPs is largely positive and it appears to evidence a concerted effort by the Government financially and otherwise to support GPs in fulfilling their hugely important roles.
Commenting on the plan, Simon Stevens said “GPs are by far the largest branch of British medicine, and as a recent British Medical Journal headline put it – if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails. So if anyone ten years ago had said: “Here’s what the NHS should now do – cut the share of funding for primary care and grow the number of hospital specialists three times faster than GPs”, they’d have been laughed out of court.
But looking back over a decade, that’s exactly what’s happened. Which is why it’s no great surprise that a recent international survey revealed British GPs are under far greater pressure than their counterparts, with rising workload matched by growing patient concerns about convenient access. So rather than ignore these real pressures, the NHS has at last begun openly acknowledging them. Now we need to act, and this plan sets out exactly how.”