An additional £220 million funding in the new GP contract for 2016/17 has been secured by GP leaders but they have warned that the Government must commit to a long-term rescue package. The additional funding will be invested in services for the next financial year, part of which will go towards a 1% pay rise for doctors. The new contract is the first part of a bigger package to be rolled out as part of an attempt to reform general practice, according to NHS England.
Chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens said: “This welcome agreement between NHS England and the BMA provides GPs with some stability and support, and shows what can be achieved through sensible and constructive negotiation. However, this contract is only one small element of a far wider package we're jointly developing to help practices with workload, workforce and care redesign."
The reform to services will include "radical" changes including potential changes to working hours, further support for GP recruitment and return to practice, funding for additional primary care staff, new options for practice premises, a reduction in paper-based red tape, alternative approaches to indemnity cover, and redesigned out-of-hours, 111 and extended hours arrangements. There will be further discussions on national efforts to cut back on bureaucracy, advising people on the appropriate use of GP services and options for "self-care", and arrangements for sickness payments and how practice expenses are calculated.
As part of the deal, GP practices will, over the next four years, have to record their availability on evenings and weekends for "routine appointments". They will also be required to record the number of times each year that a practice pays out a rate to a locum doctor that is above NHS England's maximum rate of pay.
But there are fears that this deal will not address the wider pressures bearing down on the service, which is considered to be in a state of emergency. GP services are reported as being at breaking point after facing a rising demand from an increasing complex pool of patients, especially caused by our ageing population who need more care closer to home.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "GPs are the bedrock of the NHS and I am determined to provide the support they need so they can spend more time with patients. This new deal is just the start of significant new investment for general practice which will help GPs to provide a truly modern, efficient service every day of the week."
Rebecca Morgan, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team said: “The new contract is a step in the right direction but general practice remains understaffed and underfunded. As the first port of call for patients, it is vitally important to ensure that this service is provided as efficiently and effectively as possible. We are often contacted by patients who have suffered as a result of delays in receiving treatment, which can often lead to disastrous consequences.”