‘Biggest shake-up for 15 years’ as GPs and NHS set to agree new contract

Reforms to the way GP services are funded which mean billions of pounds for practices in England and action to tackle spiralling workloads have been welcomed by doctors’ leaders.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents GPs, and NHS England have reached a landmark agreement on how £4.5bn in health service funding will be spent over five years.

Changes to the NHS contract with GPs will give surgeries £1bn over five years, along with a further £1.8bn to help practices work more closely together to deliver services, the BMA said.

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The settlement includes guaranteed investment of £405m in its first year, meaning every practice will be able to increase staff pay by two per cent.

The BMA has long argued for extra investment and action to tackle rising stress levels which have seen doctors leaving the profession.

Richard Vautrey, a Leeds GP and the BMA’s GP Committee chairman, said: “We are confident that these widespread changes – the most significant in 15 years – will deliver the best not just for GPs across England, but also for the patients they treat on a daily basis.

“Recent years have seen hard-working family doctors deal with an overstretched workforce doing their best to meet rising demand from patients suffering more and more complex conditions, all on the back of a decade of under-investment in general practice.

“Therefore, we are pleased after months of discussions with NHS England, to have negotiated a package of reforms to the GP contract and beyond, that will begin addressing the unsustainable situation – whereby doctors are choosing to leave the profession while patients wait longer and longer for appointments – and laying the foundations for a general practice fit for the future.”

NHS England said it will fund 20,000 more staff to help GP practices work together as part of a system of Primary Care Networks. They will include pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and support workers, helping GPs spend more time with patients.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “This five-year deal unarguably represents the biggest boost to primary care in more than 15 years, giving patients more convenient services at their local GP surgery while breaking down the divide between family doctors and community health services. It provides the practical foundation for the big service improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

The deal allows for investment in IT equipment and improvements to services including diabetes care, blood pressure control and cervical screening.

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, added: “This contract gives five-year funding clarity and certainty for practices while giving patients improved services. Primary medical and community care resources will increase by £4.5bn by 2023/24 and rise as a share of the overall NHS budget.

“And this agreement confirms how much of this new investment will stabilise and transform primary care through general practice and the evolution of Primary Care Networks. It’s a game changer and signals the start of a new era for general practice.”