A Labour government would boost primary care services with £100m from savings elsewhere in the NHS, the party leader has said in a key speech this evening.
The extra cash for GP services will help ensure all patients get a GP appointment within 48 hours, Ed Miliband said in a speech in the north west today.
Labour said the £100m would come from “scrapping government rules which have led to spending of at least £78m on unnecessary administration and legal fees because NHS services are now under threat from EU competition law”.
A Labour administration would also spend less on Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Commissioning Support Units. As reported by HSJ today, Monitor is set to see its budget boosted by 19 per cent this year.
Labour said research it had conducted with the Freedom of Information Act showed that hospital trusts were spending £31m “on assessing and bidding for NHS tenders” and £21m on “handling competition issues relating to reconfigurations and mergers and acquisitions”.
A further £26m had been spent by clinical commissioning groups on “competitive tendering and external and legal advice relating to competition issues”, according to the party’s research.
A Labour spokeswoman said a more detailed breakdown would be given later in the week.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said she was glad politicians had realised “general practice is now teetering on the brink of collapse”. She added: “GPs want to provide better access for their patients, but are being prevented from cutting waiting times because of the funding black hole in general practice.
“Ed Miliband’s announcement that more money should be channelled into general practice is therefore extremely welcome.”
Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said in a statement: “Labour’s plan to give patients a range of new options to access their family doctor makes sense. People’s needs vary from situation to situation, so recognising that the 48-hour target is not a one-size-fits-all model is welcome.
“But solving the problems of general practice is not just about getting people through the door. We need fundamental change to primary care that enables GPs and their teams to assume 24/7 responsibility for coordinating people’s care, supported by a network of other professionals like pharmacists, hospital specialists, and social workers.
“By focusing on top-down changes, these proposals hint towards another NHS reorganisation. Locally driven solutions are the best way to achieve effective change to primary care.”
Reacting to the news, NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: “With unprecedented pressure on the NHS and no ‘magic porridge pot’ of funding available, it is vital that any proposals to widen care or access are grounded in evidence that they improve patient outcomes and experience at least as well as alternative proposals. Labour’s proposals are no exception.
“Our members tell us that the best prescription for primary care is not just additional money but also more collaborative working between primary care, hospitals and community services, and other partners like social care.”
Labour quoted HSJ research showing roughtly two thirds of CCG leaders reported increased commissioning costs as a result of competition regulations.