Norfolk MP warning over GP services as he questions what will be cut to pay for new plan

Norman Lamb at the Forum to launch his Lib Dem leadership bid. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norman Lamb at the Forum to launch his Lib Dem leadership bid. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has warned money for a plan to put general practice 'back on its feet' is not new money.

He said Norfolk family doctors had told him they could not recruit, and, with much of the workforce near retirement, practices were close to crashing.

The former health minister called for the government to set out where it will made cuts to pay for extra funding for GP services.

It was announced today that patients will be urged to 'self-manage' conditions online and see nurses and pharmacists as part of a major shake-up of GP surgeries.

NHS England announced a five-year plan to put general practice 'back on its feet', with £2.4 billion a year in funding by 2020/21.

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The boost comes after mounting pressure from GP leaders over increasing workloads and underfunding, as well as a shortage of trainee doctors willing to go into general practice.

Under the plan announced by NHS England boss Simon Stevens, GP practices will work together to manage patient demand, increase their opening hours on week nights and weekends and encourage patients to see professionals other than GPs.

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It calls for a reduced burden on GPs while 'increasing the role' of other practitioners and better 'self-care' among patients.

But Mr Lamb, who is now the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: 'This is not fresh money and is being taken from existing NHS budgets. GPs surgeries certainly need more money to cut waiting times, but what is being cut?'

'The continuing decline in NHS performance, shown by recent A&E figures, reinforces the urgent need for an independent, cross-party commission to design a new long-term settlement for the NHS and social care system.

'The Treasury must decide whether its ideological determination to shrink the state can possibly justify the growing risk to patient safety in the NHS.'

'My fear is that there is a massive problem in primary care here and now. GPs in Norfolk tell me that they cannot recruit and, with much of the workforce near to retirement, many practices are close to crashing,' he added.

The government announced that GP practices could see an extra 1,500 pharmacists working alongside them to streamline things such as repeat prescriptions, deal with minor ailments and help people with long-term conditions. There is also a plan to bring 3,000 mental health therapists into primary care.

Some £45 million has also been earmarked 'so that every practice in the country can help their reception and clerical staff play a greater role in care navigation, signposting patients and handling clinical paperwork to free up GP time.'

Overall, an extra 5,000 non-medical staff are needed over the next five years to support general practice, alongside 5,000 more GPs. There will also be a push to retain existing GPs and those who want to work flexibly and part-time, as well as cash incentives for doctors who want to return to the field.

A new route will open for GPs with previous UK experience - who work in equivalent primary care roles outside the UK - to come back to GP surgeries without needing to sit exams.

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