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GP partnerships ‘under threat’ as general practice overlooked by Chancellor

by Rima Evans and Anna Colivicchi
7 March 2024

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The Chancellor failing to commit ‘desperately needed’ funding to primary care in yesterday’s Spring Budget has put the financial sustainability of many GP partnerships under threat, medical accountants have warned.

Deborah Wood, chairman of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA) said announcements made by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saw ‘very little in the way of good news for general practice’.

Mr Hunt pledged a £2.5bn ‘day-to-day funding boost’ for the NHS in England as well promised an additional investment of £3.4bn to boost technology and digital transformation (see box below).

He told the House of Commons that the Government will ‘help the NHS meet pressures in the coming year’ and that the funding ‘will allow the NHS to continue its focus on reducing waiting times’.

However, documents published after the Chancellor’s speech carry no mention of any additional funding for general practice.  

Ms Wood said overlooking primary care meant ‘the financial sustainability of many GP partnerships is consequently under threat.’

Despite this, she said the Budget bought ‘small gains at a personal level for individual GPs and their staff’ as a result of cuts to National Insurance contributions (NICs).

Employed doctors and staff earning more than £50,270 a year will benefit from an additional £754 a year as a result of the 2p cut in National Insurance contributions.

Meanwhile, staff earning between £12,570 and £50,270 will save 2p for every pound earned between the two thresholds.

Ms Wood further expained that self-employed GP partners and locum doctors will also see a 2p cut in their Class 4 NICs for earnings between £12,570 and £50,270.

‘With the abolition of Class 2 NICs announced in the Autumn Statement, they will also see an additional saving of around £179 a year,’ she added.

Investment in technology and NHS IT systems

The £3.4bn additional funding for technology in the NHS will be divided across the following three areas:

  • £430m to ‘transform access and services for patients, giving them more choice and the ability to manage and attend appointments virtually’
  • £1bn to transform the use of data to reduce time spent on ‘unproductive’ administrative tasks by NHS staff (this includes AI pilots automating the writing and clinical coding of notes and an acceleration of the Federated Data Platform to bring together operational and ICS data currently stored on separate systems to every trust in the country by the end of 2026-27)
  • £2bn to update ‘fragmented and outdated’ IT systems across the NHS (but with no specific mention of GP IT systems). The funding will be used to ensure all NHS trusts have Electronic Patient Records by March 2026, to update over 100 MRI scanners with AI and to digitalise transfers of care.    

Source: HM Treasury Spring Budget 2024