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27.03.17

GPs slam ‘scandalous’ NHS England for failing to release resilience funds

The £40m resilience fund is failing to be filtered down to help GP practices in need, a survey conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed.

The fund was announced in 2016 as a four-year plan split into £16m this year, with a further £8m for each of the next three years – but now doctors have accused NHS England of “scandalous” failings in ensuring that the much-needed funds reach GPs.

In the survey, it was found that in February this year, 24 out of 40 practices surveyed had been identified and notified of their receipt of the funding, whilst funding had actually found its way to only 16 practices.

In an attempt to rouse NHS England into action, the BMA has penned a letter calling for the funding to be retained, ring-fenced and sent to practices before patients are affected and practices, inevitably, are forced into closure.

Written to NHS England director of commissioning Ros Roughton, the letter read: “We are aware from data shared by NHS England that over £11m funding for this programme is yet to be spent (as of February 2017).

“We believe this may be an underestimate since we have heard of anecdotes where, even where CCGs have claimed allocation of funds, practices have not been notified accordingly.

“It is vital that this essential resource to support practices under the greatest of pressures is not lost to general practice due to the problems in local deployment of this funding.

“We would be grateful if you could clarify what plans are in place to ensure we are absolutely clear of the level of funding that has not been released to practices, and how any unspent funds will be allocated to practices, which we believe must be ring-fenced and made available if necessary in 2017-18.”

The BMA’s GP committee chair Chaand Nagpaul also commented that the funding was a key element of the GPs Forward view aimed at “supporting practices that are under incredible pressure from rising demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages”.

“It is completely unacceptable that the BMA’s survey shows that a postcode lottery has developed, with wide disparities over where the funding is being practically delivered,” he said.

The chair then went on to describe NHS England’s actions as “scandalous”, as CCGs were allocated funds in the autumn and, under the government’s promised plan, practices should have been notified by December if they were eligible, with the resources arriving by this month.

However, he claims this was a target that NHS England is currently failing to meet: “In many cases these deadlines are being completely missed. The BMA has written to NHS England asking them to urgently address this serious operational failure. This funding must be retained and ring-fenced for its intended purpose and not lost from CCG budgets due to their failure to spend it in this financial year.

“It is vital that every eligible practice should have access to this vital support, to prevent any adverse effects on patient services, or even in some cases practices closing.”

A spokeswoman from NHS England said: “The latest local team reports show investment of £9.2m supporting over 600 struggling practices through the Vulnerable Practice Program."

Top Image: Anthony Devlin

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