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Primary care investment not enough, says NHS England advisor

The extra funding for primary care falls short of what is needed to ensure good provision of patient care, NHS England's clinical advisor has said. 

In January, the Government pledged to invest £4.5bn in primary and community care by 2023/24 as part of the NHS long-term plan.

This is £1bn more than the previous £3.5bn pledged in November, which former Prime Minister Theresa May said would be used to ensure more patients are cared for at home and in the community rather than in hospital settings.

Despite the increase, GP and NHS England national clinical advisor for primary care Dr Karen Kirkham expressed concerns over the funding, saying it might not be enough to allow services to manage patients 'properly'.

During a session at the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) conference earlier this month in Birmingham, journalist and broadcaster John Stapleton asked a panel of experts whether the Government's funding pledges for the NHS 'will make any difference to what they do'.

In response, Dr Kirkham said: 'I’m really concerned with the primary care funding also. And there’s £4.5bn coming in over the next five years, mainly around the workforce and the network contracts with general practice.

'I do see this as a real investment, but I think this is on the back of minimal investment for 10 years.

'So it’s not to bring us up to a level where we can actually start to really think about how we can manage people properly, but we can’t do it on our own it has to be a system-wide response.'

In a separate session on the progresses made in primary care, NAPC chair Dr Nav Chana asked NHS England director of primary care and system transformation Dominic Hardy if he believed that the £4.5bn, alongside the '£1.8bn around PCNs' was enough 'to do the stuff that we’re talking about'.

Mr Hardy pointed out that the NHS cannot receive an unlimited flow of money, saying that 'the trick is to make the very most of what we have'. 

He said: 'If you had unlimited cash for the NHS then of course you’d beg for more money. But that’s what we’ve got and the trick isn’t to keep asking for more, the trick is to make the very most of what we do have.’

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