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£1bn for primary care, says health secretary

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JeremyHuntwith nurses.jpg Health secretary with nurses

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that primary and community care services will receive a £1 billion pound investment to improve infrastructure, as part of the chancellor's Autumn Statement.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 1 December, Mr Hunt said: 'Today, I can announce a £1 billion investment fund in primary and community care facilities over the next four years. This will pay for new surgeries and community care facilities in the places where people most want them: near their own homes and families. These new primary care facilities will also be encouraged to join up closely with local job centres, social services and other community services.' Precise details of how and where the money will be spent have not been released.

Mr Hunt has said that the investment will be funded by fining investment banks involved in illegal manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which determines the cost of borrowing from banks. Other funding announced includes £200 million to pilot the new models of care set out in Simon Steven's Five Year Forward View, and a further £1.7 billion to support additional secondary care services. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN said: 'It's crucial that this additional investment is used to relieve the pressure on frontline services. The money must go to the right places – including community care and mental health services, as well as hospitals. This immediate funding boost has been sorely needed and so the government's commitment to increasing investment is certainly welcome.'

Crystal Oldman, the chief executive of the QNI, said this money offered 'a lot of opportunities for community care'. 'It could mean general practices co-located with district nursing teams, or see a move to a model of federated practices, she said. We welcome the additional funding, but we would also like to see more investment in district nursing, which is so stretched at the moment.'

The RCGP has calculated, based on the estimates of auditor Deloitte, that the investment in primary care services could save the health service up to £1.9 billion by 2020. The organisation has said that, each year, £133.9m would be saved by diverting up to 1.7 million patients away from A&E, £143.3m by reducing the number of unnecessary ambulance call-outs, and £170.1m by reducing the length of hospital stays for patients aged over 65, by providing greater primary care support at home. RCGP chair Maureen Baker said: 'These figures show that increased government spending on general practice would lead to massive savings in the NHS across the UK. Put quite simply, it would be economically-illiterate to ignore the savings that would come from increased investment in general practice.'

In response to Mr Hunt's announcement, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham expressed concern about where the money for the investment will come from. 'If additional NHS funding comes at the expense of tough cuts to local government budgets, this will be a false economy as costs in the NHS will rise,' he said.

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