HSJ’s roundup of Friday’s key stories and talking points

Today’s must know: Share of spending going to GPs falls for third successive year

Today’s milestone: Jeremy Hunt marks three years as health secretary

Hope and frustration for GPs

“Very frustrated and very sad” was the powerful reaction of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s GP chair Hugh Reeve to our evidence that the share of health spending going to general practice has fallen for the third successive year

The main motivation for many of the best clinical leaders who were persuaded to run CCGs was to invest in primary care, so they were understandably irked by the findings.

However, there are a few reasons for them to hope.

The first is that in this financial year £350m has been committed to national ringfenced funds for primary care. The second is HSJ’s finding that, while NHS England slightly reduced its general practice spending, CCGs increased theirs substantially.

This may indicate that, as CCGs take on full GP budgets under the “co-commissioning” policy, they will use their new muscle to speed up primary care investment.

Worryingly, however, the GP leaders we spoke to report it is getting more difficult, not easier, to invest in primary care as hospital demand grows, increasing the bill under the payment by results tariff, and with commissioners under pressure to help cut provider deficits.

They call for a move to capitated payment rules incorporating both primary and secondary care. This has been recommended by NHS leaders at all levels ad nauseam, not least through HSJ, in recent years.

Hunt still in the game

On Friday, Jeremy Hunt marked three years since he reshuffled into Richmond House to replace Andrew Lansley as health secretary.

At the time a number of HSJ readers did not think the former culture secretary would last long in the role. His lack of experience in the health sector had people worried, what with the Francis report into Mid Staffs looming.

Here’s a taste of what they said: “Can’t see Jeremy Hunt making much impact”; “Mr Hunt will have a minor effect on the NHS since the Health Act is passed”; “Hunt is at the very, very best no more than a caretaker.”

Instead, if he makes it to 4 September 2016, Mr Hunt will become the fifth longest serving senior health minister since the First World War, and he’s outlasted all of the ministerial team he started out with. He told HSJ last year he wanted five years in the job, and he “would be very happy if this is my life’s work”.

In the same week Sir Robert Naylor called him a “charming, intelligent, capable guy” (though not his favourite health secretary), Mr Hunt is probably feeling quite pleased with himself.

Seven day celebration

Mr Hunt will be able to celebrate his three years with a weekend of heavy focus on the debate about seven day services, something the health secretary has had high on his agenda since the general election.

We expect heavy broadcast coverage on Saturday and Sunday as some big reports come out. HSJ readers may wish to prepare themselves by swotting up on what Sir Bruce Keogh told the Commons health committee in July – that his new research had confirmed there is a “weekend effect” on hospital mortality.

Health historians might even want to look back to 2011, when research by Sir Bruce found… the same thing.