You could be forgiven for not rejoicing the recently announced over £2.4bn being channelled into primary care.
The Local Government Association rightly points to the false economy created by investing in the NHS, rather than local government. It is preventative approaches to health that are so badly needed.
Local authorities are not the only ones to find the announcement difficult. Pharmacy Voice has also voiced their frustration, highlighting that the Genaral Practice Forward View comes at a time when community pharmacy is facing funding cuts of more than 6%.
Despite the understandable disappointment from some, the New NHS Alliance has a number of reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, the announcement is nothing less than an admission that the concentration of resources in the acute sector has been a mistake. It is important to note that this is not new money, but part of the existing NHS settlement, so it won’t affect local authorities. It is about redressing the growing imbalance between community and hospital based healthcare.
Secondly, the money will help to ease the intolerable pressures that GPs are under. With many reporting excessive levels of stress and mental health problems, this can only be a good thing. If it enables GPs to regain control over their workload and give them headroom to think differently about how to deliver services, then it will have done its job.
Thirdly, the money comes with some expectation of care redesign. It includes a new multi-speciality community provider contract from April 2017 to integrate general practice with community and wider healthcare services. This marks a significant change, and while currently voluntary, it paves the way for devolution and could well become the norm in years to come.
In principle, the New NHS Alliance welcomes the GPFV, but it does not go far enough. What was really needed is an Integrated Primary and Community Care Forward View that includes communities, housing, and local government. But let’s face it, it’s still a good start and more than a step in the right direction.
Merron Simpson, chief executive, New NHS Alliance