New health secretary urged to review GP funding

The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has urged new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to properly support GPs after the launch of the Government’s Pharmacy First service highlighted significant disparities in funding.

Under the new service, pharmacists will be paid £1,000 a month, plus £15 per consultation for providing 30 consultations a month.

Dr Steve Taylor, a GP based in Manchester and DAUK spokesperson, said this equated to £48 per consultation – more than double the £23 per consultation that GPs currently receive.

He said: “A consultation at £48 is a reasonable fee but NHS GPs are receiving less than half that and are struggling to fund the staff they need and the quality of care patients want.

“If you look at the funding formulas for GPs, it’s increased from £153 per head in 2015 to £163 now with no cap on consultations. It’s effectively a cut in real terms.

“The amount of extra work that practices are doing has gone up 18 per cent in that time, so they’re doing more work and doing it for less.

“The average patient now receives seven consultations a year, most of which will be much more complex than those being now shared with pharmacists.

“And it works out at less than half the rate for pharmacists – and frankly it’s not enough.

“It’s making it harder for general practices to be financially viable, which means that GPs can’t afford to employ and recruit members of staff, which effectively reduces capacity, and is even causing some GPs to leave the profession.

“We urge the new Health and Social Care Secretary to urgently respond to the needs of practices and support GPs so they can continue to provide care for patients.”

Through the new service, pharmacists will be able to provide advice to patients and issue medicines for seven common conditions in sinusitis; sore throat; earache; infected insect bite; impetigo; shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.

Women will also be able to get the contraceptive pill from pharmacies without the need for a GP appointment, through the 

Dr Taylor welcomed the expansion of simple consultations to pharmacies.

“If you’re a patient and you can get help and advice with these issues at the local pharmacy, that’s brilliant,” he said.

“GPs are so underfunded we’re often struggling to provide those, so any extra help is to be welcomed.

“But what is not welcome is the continued lack of resources allocated to GP practices and it has to change.”