Thousands of GPs at risk due to NHS social care funding changes


George Osborne's decision to increase by 3 times the funding for NHS social care could see the loss of thousands of GP positions by 2016, according to a leading doctors' body.


The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says local authority social care programmes will gain around £2billion in NHS funding, in line with the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review.

According to the RCGP, within 2 years this could lead to a loss for doctors of some £200m – and with it around 2,400 GP positions – unless specific provision is made for general practice.

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada is concerned that fewer GPs could have a "devastating" effect on NHS patients, despite government claims that overall NHS funding is ring-fenced.

"General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS," Dr Gerada said. "When general practice starts to buckle, the entire health service comes under increasing strain."

Safe care under threat?

According to a recent RCGP poll, almost 50% of GPs said they could not continue to guarantee safe care, while 6 out of 7 believed general practice in the UK to be in crisis.

The college has based its assessment of how general practice will be impacted by the funding diversion on a formula which currently assigns 9% of NHS money to GPs.

Under the formula, general practice would contribute 9% of the money being moved into the pooled fund from the NHS, representing a loss of £18m by 2014 and £180m in 2015-16. This will be the equivalent of 2,390 GPs throughout England, according to the RCGP.

The college has pressed ministers for assurances that the money in the pooled fund ill not be taken from general practice.

"More GPs needed, not fewer"

A health department spokesperson insisted there was no loss of NHS funding in favour of social care. "We are creating a joint fund that will benefit both. Spending money on social care not only provides a better service for individuals, it also eases pressure on the NHS.

"If we are to improve the care of the most vulnerable in society we have to invest in services that can help keep them out of hospital when they don't need to be there. GPs will play a crucial role in this, helping to commission services with local authorities for their local population."

However, Dr Gerada said the RCGP findings demonstrate that the GP budget in 2015/16 could be affected by "savage" cuts.

"At a time when we are already struggling to cope with the demands of an ageing population and a patient client group that has increasingly complex health issues, it is ludicrous that the chancellor has put in place a programme that risks taking millions of pounds out of general practice," Dr Gerada said. "Right now, we need 10,000 more GPs, not 2,400 fewer."

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