The Royal College of General Practice (RCGP) chair has called on NHS England to make clear that sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) will be rejected if they fail to invest more in general practice.
At the RCGP Annual Conference today, Dr Maureen Baker told delegates the college has “strongly supported” STPs that can act “as regional engine rooms for a more collaborative approach” to general practice.
However, she said RCGP representatives are “struggling against an agenda” focused on reducing hospital deficits.
“This is a false vision which may seem to offer short term gain, but if general practice isn't supported then there is no system transformation and we will very quickly be back where we started,” she said.
If STPs fail to allocate funding to general practice, primary care could lose up to £760m in 2020/21.
Baker, therefore, called on Simon Steven, chief executive of NHS England, to require all STPs to publish their financial plans and to “make crystal clear” that unless they commit to investing more in general practice, “their plans will be rejected and responsibility for the Fund regionally will be withheld from the non-compliant STPs”.
She said: “The STPs will play a crucial role in shaping the future development of the NHS over the next five years. However, strengthening general practice should be at the heart of what they are about.”
Her comments came in a speech that was heavily focused on leadership in general practice, particularly calling for “strong leadership from clinical commissioning groups”.
Baker told delegates, “The failure to spend money earmarked for general practice on general practice is a national disgrace.
“And it is high time that CCGs realised that general practice is a vital component of the local healthcare system – not a fringe activity that can be used as a way trimming the fat from their budgets.”
She said the college will be getting in touch with CCGs “to tell them to utilise their budgets as they are meant to be used – to provide better support to local GPs.”
Recent analysis of local commissioning expenditure found that CCGs will have under spent on general practice by more than £30 million by the end of 2016/17.
“This is not loose change down the back of a sofa,” said Baker. “It is double what NHS England plan to spend on resilience teams this year and is the same as the amount that is due to be spent on tackling the problem of indemnity.”