Letter: Investing in GP services

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The Independent Online
Sir: Dr Angela Bishop's letter about out-of-hours GP work (20 July) misunderstands the way the NHS is funded. Each year the Government puts substantial extra funding into the NHS - some pounds 1,300m in 1995-96 (in a total budget of pounds 32bn). Most of this goes straight to hospitals, community health services and family doctor services. A small part is earmarked to fund worthwhile central initiatives during the year, and this is where the pounds 45m we are prepared to invest in improving GP out-of- hours services for patients and doctors would come from.

We think very carefully before committing these funds. But I am convinced that investing in general practice so that family doctors can continue to provide high-quality services, but with less stress and fewer demands on their time, is the right thing to do. The proposals we have made to improve GP out-of-hours services are geared to achieving this. As well as the new money, they give family doctors the opportunity to transfer their out-of-hours responsibility to other local GPs; they give real support to GPs who wish to work together to share out-of-hours duties; they protect the position of rural doctors; and they offer an education initiative to help patients make good and appropriate use of local GP services.

I look forward to continuing discussions with GP leaders so that we can achieve our shared aim of improving services.

Yours sincerely,

Gerald Malone

Minister for Health

Department of Health

London, SW1