Extra funding needed for ‘under pressure’ GPs, says Nuffield Trust

4 Nov 14

General practice is in need of both more money and significant reform if it is to meet the challenge set out by NHS England in its Five Year Forward View, according to the Nuffield Trust.

In a report issued today, the trust noted that spending on GP services fell by 3.8% or £287m, in 2013/14. Coupled with an ageing workforce and a shortage of trainees, GP services were facing a ‘looming staffing crunch’, it suggested.

Chief executive Nigel Edwards said: ‘There is no doubt that general practice is facing great pressures at the moment.

‘Funding is tight, there is an impending workforce crisis and – perhaps most significantly – the need of patients have changed beyond recognition, as the population lives longer with chronic conditions.’

The report was informed by both an analysis of latest data on GP services and a separate survey of 100 health and social care leaders.

A common finding was that small and single-doctor practices were struggling to deal with new challenges.

‘The 1930s model of corner shop general practice is no longer fit for purpose,’ said one survey respondent to the survey. ‘It needs to become much more responsive to its customers’ expectations about access and fully integrated with a community, voluntary and social care team, to provide a complete package of joined-up care.’

GPs need to evolve their surgeries into ‘super practices’, forming networks with other practices to pool resources and draw in specialist expertise, the report concluded. This was also among the reforms outlined in NHS England’s five-year plan, which stated new models of care could increase the annual efficiency gains in the service from its trend of 0.8% to between 2%-3%.

Mark Dayan, lead author of the report and Nuffield Trust policy officer said this process was already underway.

‘This doesn’t mean that the familiarity of local practices will be lost or that GPs will vanish from rural areas,’ he added.

‘Working in bigger, better-organised groups can carry the important neighbourhood presence that many GP surgeries have through tough times. But it will need politicians to give GPs time and support as they make the switch to scaled-up general practice fit for the future.’

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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