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PM pledges more than £100m for primary care projects

by Beth Gault
5 August 2019

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The new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced an extra £1.8bn in funding for the NHS, including over £110m for primary care.

The investment will fund upgrades for 20 projects in hospitals and CCGs across the country, alongside £1bn for NHS capital spending.

However, some health economists have cast doubt on whether this was new funding. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock is also expected to set out changes to the pension scheme later this week to support GPs ‘taking on extra shifts’.

It comes after Mr Johnson promised to reduce GP waiting times in his first speech as PM last month.

The funding will include:

  • £25.2m to develop primary care services in NHS South Norfolk CCG;
  • £17m for Barking, Havering and Redbridge CCGs and North East London NHS Foundation Trust to develop a new health and wellbeing hub in North East London;
  • £57.5m primary care investment for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw;
  • £18m for NHS Wirral CCG to better ‘patient flow’ by improving access via the urgent treatment centre.

The investment will also cover £30.6m for the development of a new emergency care campus in Stockport, which will incorporate a GP assessment unit alongside an urgent treatment centre and planned investigation unit.

Mr Johnson said: ‘The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country. With our doctors and nurses working tirelessly day in day out, this treasured institution truly showcases the very best of Britain.

‘That’s why I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all of patients.

‘I’m delivering on this promise with a £1.8bn cash injection – meaning more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment to ensure patients continue to receive world-class care.’

However, a senior analyst from the Nuffield Trust, Sally Gainsbury, tweeted that there was a ‘catch’. 

She said: ‘The £1bn is cash hospitals and other NHS trusts already have but have been forbidden to spend. They earned it last yr in incentive payments for cutting their costs. 

‘The “PSF” incentive deal was this: cut your costs and report a surplus in your accounts, and the government will give you a big fat cash reward in return that you can spend on new kit and building repairs.’

She added the scheme had been running for three years and had typically seen between 70 and 90 NHS trusts cut their spending each year by 50% more than they needed, in return for £2.3bn in cash rewards. 

There was also a suggestion that the Government will overhaul pensions tax. 

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Johnson said: ‘It cannot be right… that people are waiting so long to see their GP; and it cannot be right that so many GPs and consultants are leaving the service, or cutting their hours, for fear of whopping tax bills.

‘It is clear that something has gone badly wrong in the taxation of doctors’ pensions. So this government is listening. We are fixing it. We are changing the rules so that doctors no longer face a perverse incentive to reduce hours.’

The Government has already proposed changes that would allow doctors to cut contributions to their pensions to avoid tax charges. It is unclear whether there will be further changes proposed. 

It follows calls from the BMA for the Government to implement a ‘drastic overhaul’ of pension tax regulations.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘If the Prime Minister is serious about improving care and tackling waiting times he must give patients reassurance that senior hospital doctors and GPs will be able to continue to provide care, and not be forced out by absurd taxes on their pensions that mean all too often they are paying to go to work.

‘While flexibilities may help in the short-term, what is needed is a drastic overhaul of pension tax regulations, including the damaging annual allowance and tapered annual allowance, to stop this absurd situation and avert this grave threat to our NHS workforce and patients – and we will continue to push the Government for this crucial change.’

Earlier this month, a BMA survey found that four in 10 GPs had reduced shifts over pension tax penalties.