EXPERTS have welcomed Labour’s pledge of more funding for GP services – but warned that diverting money from hospitals to free up cash is a “terrible idea”.

It comes after Health Secretary Wes Streeting, in his first major policy announcement since taking office, said that billions of pounds would be taken from NHS hospital budgets in order to fund GP services.

Speaking from a GP surgery in London, Streeting said: “Patients are finding it harder than ever to see a GP. Patients can’t get through the front door of the NHS, so they aren’t getting the timely care they need.

“That’s no surprise, when GPs and primary care have been receiving a smaller proportion of NHS resources. I’m committed to reversing that.”

Labour Health Secretary Wes Streeting (Image: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

Responding to the announcement, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that diverting money from cash-strapped hospitals was only moving problems around, not solving them.

And Dr Julia Patterson, the chief executive of the EveryDoctor campaign group, warned: "NHS GP services desperately need more money, because in many places surgeries cannot even hire enough GPs at the moment. However, diverting money from NHS hospitals is a terrible idea.

“There are millions of patients waiting for NHS treatment, and huge problems with A&E overcrowding and long waits too. Streeting and [Prime Minister Keir] Starmer need to come up with a robust plan to save lives as an emergency."

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the BMA’s English GP Committee, said: “The Government’s commitment to reversing years of inadequate funding in general practice in England will be transformative for patient care, and no doubt comes as a great reassurance to many overworked and undervalued GPs and practice staff.

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“General practice is broken. We have lost the equivalent of 1715 full-time, fully qualified GPs since 2015, and our teams are delivering an average of 1.45 million appointments a day for just 30p a day for every patient registered with us. That’s less than the cost of an apple.

“We applaud Mr Streeting’s ambition to shift more NHS care into the community, but hospitals need funding just as desperately as general practice does.

“Hospitals are under extreme financial pressure, with many being left with no option but to implement recruitment freezes despite record waiting lists. Diverting money away from them isn’t solving the overall problem – the NHS as a whole needs to be properly resourced.

“Just 6% of the overall budget is guaranteed for general practice, and we want to understand how Mr Streeting plans to boost that without cutting hospital funding.”

Wrigley added that the GPC he sits on had proposed “other, more immediate, solutions” to the issues in GP funding, “such as streamlining existing funding into the core contract to ensure practices can keep their doors open and care for their communities”.

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Elsewhere in his first week on the job, Streeting has looked to end the junior doctor strikes in England – although said pay demands of a 35% raise are undoable – and also said he will end the “begging bowl culture” of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Streeting has said that his health department will focus on economic growth – and acknowledged people’s “legitimate” concerns about the future of the NHS.

The Labour MP said there is “palpable anxiety” among the British public about whether the NHS will survive – but that he is “optimistic” about the future.

He said the NHS needs “tough love” and promised to drive forward reform that will help the health and care system to “survive in the 21st century”.