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Poorer areas in England are missing out on additional primary care funding

General practices in the most deprived areas of England should be collectively benefiting from an additional funding of £18.6 million a year from PCNs to improve the health of patients.

General practices in the most deprived areas of England could collectively benefit from an additional £18.6 million a year to improve the health of patients if the funding available to them better accounted for deprivation.

The research from The Health Foundation found that primary care networks (PCNs), which are a major vehicle for government investment in general practice, are not taking into account the greater health needs of some populations.

PCNs, which had £2.4bn of funding in 2023/24, were established in 2019 to coordinate general practice and other primary care services as well as being tasked with reducing health inequalities.

With new funding contracts for PCNs and general practitioners currently being negotiated, the Foundation is urging NHS England to reform its funding formulas to ensure PCNs in areas of high deprivation receive the funding they need.

PCN funding needs to account for population needs

Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and a senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: “General practice in the poorest areas, where people have the greatest health needs, is missing out on much needed funding and additional staff. Without this, the health of people in more deprived areas risks falling even further behind other parts of the country.

“People in poorer areas need to have better access to GPs and other primary care professionals. Renegotiation of primary care contracts, currently being led by NHS England, is an opportunity to address this issue.”

The new research also found that, when increased need is accounted for, there were significantly fewer additional primary care staff, such as pharmacists, physiotherapists and care coordinators, recruited to networks in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived areas – six fewer per 100,000 needs-adjusted patient.

Researchers added that with improved support – and funding that properly accounts for population needs – primary care networks hold real potential for supporting patients in the most deprived areas.

 

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