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“General Practice Forward View”

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 21 March 2017

11. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that NHS England’s “General Practice Forward View” has the funding necessary to achieve its goals. (909364)

“General Practice Forward View” announced that investment in general practice will increase from £9.6 billion in 2015-16 to more than £12 billion in 2020-21. This represents an increase of 14% in real terms, which is almost double the increase for the rest of the NHS. Two years into the forward view, we remain on track to deliver that.

I appreciate the Minister’s response, but the reality on the ground in areas such as Redcar and Teesside is that we face a deficit of £281 million by 2020. How can he reassure my constituents, who are already finding it hard to get an appointment with a GP, that already scarce services will not become even more so?

We do recognise that in parts of the country there are shortages of GPs. As Members have heard, we are planning to have 5,000 more doctors working in general practice by 2020, and a proportion of those will be in Teesside. It is important that we meet that goal.

GPs in Wycombe cite long hours, bureaucracy and the declining attractiveness of the partnership model as reasons why people do not want to be in general practice. Will the Minister ensure that funding within the forward view is directed to deal with those key problems?

Yes, and the contract discussions that we have just completed with the British Medical Association addressed a number of the issues that my hon. Friend talks about, in terms of the pressures on doctors working in general practice. We acknowledge that the workload pressures are enormous, and, through the contract, we need to do all that we can to mitigate them.

More than 80% of clinical appointments are carried out by GPs, but they receive a proportionately much lower level of funding. What steps will the Department of Health take to make sure that all sustainability and transformation plans abide by NHS England’s recommended allocation of funding to general practice?

One of the criteria by which STPs are being judged is the extent to which they are making this tilt from secondary into primary care, exactly as the hon. Lady suggests. That is precisely why the extra funding for primary care that I have set out is so important and why it is happening.

“General Practice Forward View” talks about supporting general practice to improve digital technology for patients. Given the recent data challenges, does the Minister agree that putting a national data guardian on a statutory footing to protect patients and professionals is becoming an imperative?

I know that my hon. Friend has introduced a private Member’s Bill in this area, and the Government intend to support it.

The support that is provided to GP practices in relation to IT, information and so on is absolutely crucial to their effective operation, but problems continue today in my constituency with the service provided by Capita. Capita cannot, for example, now get prescribing certificates for locums and new GPs. When are the Government going to get a grip on this failing contract and, if Capita cannot perform adequately, get someone else to do it?

The hon. Lady is right. There have been issues with the Capita contract, and we have been let down by Capita. We are working hard to get that sorted, and my colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), meets Capita weekly to get this fixed. We are making progress, and we believe that the issues that the hon. Lady refers to will be fixed in the foreseeable future.

There is a shortage of GPs across Northamptonshire, especially in Kettering, and the age profile of local GPs means that a very large number are about to reach retirement, which will make the problem worse. What can be done to encourage experienced GPs to stay on longer and to encourage those who have retired to come back?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that one of the things we need to achieve is either to encourage older GPs to work part time or to make it easier for them to step down into more of a mentoring role. With the Royal College of General Practitioners, we have brought forward a scheme called GP Career Plus, which enables GPs in 10 pilot areas—the pilots are being rolled out now—to work as mentors across practice areas, and not to feel as though they have to retire, as GPs too frequently do at the moment.