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Is your practice getting the funding it needs from the GP Forward View?

Is your practice getting the funding it needs from the GP Forward View?

GP practices are currently facing a number of challenges - the drive to modernise the primary care estate; workforce shortages and increasing levels of stress and burnout within the profession, to name but a few.

The GP Forward View (GPFV), first announced in April, represents a £2.4bn investment designed to transform general practice by driving efficiencies, modernising technology and supporting GPs to improve patient services. 

Taking a partnership approach - the financial implications

More than three in five GPs (62%) surveyed by the BMA in 2015 supported maintaining a model of primary care delivery where GPs are able to own their own surgery. In fact, over half (56%) had ambitions to own and work in owner-occupied premises.

However, 'increased and sustained' premises funding was cited by 23% as an essential factor in enabling GPs to better deliver essential services (The Future of General Practice, 2015).

In order to deliver more innovative models of care, the GPFV suggests that practices may wish to merge to form super-partnership practices. Taking such an approach will require a major investment of time and money, particularly given that facilities at many existing premises are currently not fit for purpose. 

Joining with other practices can result in an initial decline in income depending on the profit sharing arrangement agreed, placing further financial pressure on GPs who have been saddled with significant tax liabilities.

To counterbalance this, the GPFV has pledged to invest £900 million in capital investments over the next five years to accommodate multi-disciplinary teams servicing ever growing and demanding populations.

Project support will also be available to enable primary care providers to move through the associated financial, legal and design processes as quickly as possible.

The need to invest in technology

Premises and equipment is one of the fundamental standards against which GP practices are assessed during Care Quality Commission inspections. From the ability to manage their own appointment to holding online consultations, patients' expectations of how GP services are delivered are changing.

The GPFV is planning a series of technology focused initiatives to help. These include establishing a national IT catalogue and buying framework and working alongside approved technology vendors who can fulfil 'core requirements', such as the ability to access digital patient records from inside and outside of a practice.

The challenge for GP practice owners wishing to modernise their premises is whether their practice specific improvements qualify to meet the GPFV's specific funding criteria. And even if they do, they must overcome major competition for available GPFV funding of which there is no guarantee that their required investment will be secured.

The right diagnosis but the wrong remedy?

While undoubtedly the GPFV is a much needed step forward for GPs it could be too little, too late for practices which require urgent financial support now.

Recently an 18,000 patient practice in Oxfordshire admitted it may close unless it urgently receives vulnerable practice funding, while four practices in Brighton servicing over 10,000 patients closed after proposed funding was rescinded.

The short-term outlook continues to look bleak. According to independent research, one in ten GPs believe their practice is at risk of closure in the next 12 months because of recruitment, workload or funding issues. As a result, GP partners face cutting their take-home pay or merging with other practices in order to stay afloat.

Alternative finance - the best medicine to alleviate funding pressures

Has your practice hit a road block in obtaining GPFV funding to invest in new equipment and technology, planned refurbishment works or experiencing short-term cash flow struggles?

Alternative finance solutions could provide the timely and vital boost you need to kickstart your practice's growth and ease any financial concerns you may have at this uncertain time.

Specialist and trusted providers, such as Wesleyan Bank, offer an extensive range of financial products and services which are specifically tailored for GPs and GP practices. These include flexible short-term and long-term funding solutions to support partner buy ins/outs, practice acquisitions and practice refurbishments or extensions.

Tailored solutions also include point of sale asset finance products to enable the purchase of specialist medical equipment and technology which practices urgently need to enhance patient services.

Alternative finance solutions may not represent a magic wand to solve all of the challenges GP practices face today. But they could make a vital difference in helping GPs to minimise the impact of rising funding pressures, a longstanding issue which the GPFV ultimately may not solve.

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