• NHS spending on general practice grew about 2 per cent in 2016-17, accounts suggest
  • This is the largest cash terms increase in several years but half the growth rate of spending on trusts and FTs
  • In real terms, spending on general practice was about the same as the previous year

Current spending on general practice grew by 2 per cent in 2016-17 – the largest cash terms increase in several years, but less than NHS trusts and almost flat in real terms – annual accounts suggest.

This is despite a national policy of increasing GP spend in real terms and as a share of investment.

Annual accounts covering NHS England and clinical commissioning group spending, published this week, showed a 2.2 per cent cash terms increase on the previous year to £8bn.

This indicates the largest cash terms increase in several years, with Department of Health accounts since 2011-12 showing annual growth of less than 2 per cent.

However, inflation was 2 per cent in 2016-17, suggesting that, in real terms, there was only a very small increase in spending on general practice.

DH accounts and NHS Improvement quarter 4 reports each show expenditure by NHS providers increased by between 4.2 per cent and 4.3 per cent.

The DH accounts suggest GP spend has remained broadly the same as a share of total revenue spend – at 6.8 per cent – whereas NHS England’s accounts suggest it has gone down slightly.

Measurement of spending on general practice is contested, and the most robust analysis is normally published later in the year by NHS Digital. Last year these figures suggested greater growth than the NHS England accounts did.

NHS England said that once extra general practice transformation funding is factored in, as well as other accounting corrections and reclassifications for factors such as national insurance changes and secondary dental spending, there would be a smaller gap in spending growth between primary and secondary care.

The statement added: “Once again general practice saw real terms growth in 2016-17, in contrast to the years leading up to the creation of NHS England.”

In the Five Year Forward View for General Practice, published in April last year, NHS England said it was “committed to increasing the proportion of investment going into general practice services” and to increasing it in real terms by 2020-21.

The NHS England accounts also show there was a significant fall in spending on pharmaceutical services in 2016-17, of 5.4 per cent to £2bn. In 2015-16 it fell by 1.2 per cent.

NHS trusts' spending grew faster than GPs' in 2016-17