Health minister Alan Milburn has given primary care groups a £226m cash boost.

Announcing the money at the NHS PCG Alliance conference in Blackpool last week, Mr Milburn said£60m would be aimed at recruiting extra practice staff and modernising 1,000 GP surgeries.

He said a further£20m would be earmarked for developing information services for PCGs, targeted at practices which had 'little previous investment in information technology'.

Up to£179m - around£350,000 for each PCGs in England - will be spent on PCGs in their first year.

Mr Milburn described the new money as a 'modernisation fund' that would honour his commitment to increase spending on general medical services.

Michael Dixon, chair of the PCG Alliance, which grew out of the National Association of Commissioning GPs, welcomed the cash. 'Some PCGs are going to be further down the line than others and we must seize this opportunity to achieve a level playing field,' he said. But he warned that the 'commitment to practice-based budgets' risked re-creating the inequalities of fundholding.

See News Focus, page 14.