GPs are increasingly being denied access to digital funding with no clarity about available money for IT, a letter to NHS England claims.

On paper, GPs received a 18% revenue funding boost for 2016/17 to help them achieve the goals of the GP Practice Forward View.

However, the BMA’s Joint GPC and RCGP IT subcommittee has recently written to NHS England claiming that CCGs were increasingly not releasing this money to GPs.

The subcommittee confirmed the content of the letter to Digital Health News, which outlined concerns including:

  • Ambiguity about actual levels of funding for both recurrent and capital investment.
  • CCGs spending allocated GP IT funding on other projects, exacerbated by the removal of ringfence around IT funding. This has left GPs more exposed to competition from acute trusts trying to plug their own IT funding gaps.
  • Changes in the way funding is calculated which have left some CCGs with inadequate funding for the number of GPs they support.
  • An overweighting towards capital, rather than revenue, investment, which is “stifling innovation”.
  • A lack of clarity about the progress of local digital roadmaps, how they will be aligned effectively to sustainability and transformation plans,

“If general practice does not receive adequate funding for existing infrastructure requirements, it will be unable to increase levels of digital activity to meet the goals of the GP Forward View and Personalised Health and Care 2020,” the subcommittee said.

Chairman of the committee, GP Paul Cundy, raised the difficulty in getting a clear answer on GP IT funding during a Westminster Health Forum panel last month.

“I’ve sent a letter in to the people responsible for the general practice IT spend… saying can you please tell us where this money is because we can’t find it.”

An NHS England spokesman confirmed it had received the letter and would respond in “due course”.

The commissioning body refused to answer Digital Health News’ questions about the level of funding for GPs and claims that CCGs were not releasing GP IT funding.

According to NHS England’s GP IT Operating Model 2016-18, GPs should have seen an increase in revenue funding in 2016/17, from £146 million to £173 million.

However, that temporary boost came mostly from unspent “transitional funding” from the previous two years, a separate funding streams that had now been discontinued.

There is no clearly defined capital funding pot for GP IT projects, which as approved by NHS England on a case-by-case basis.

The 2016-18 model also shows that spending power had been devolved further to CCGs to provide a more “local flexibility” when allocating GP IT funding.

This devolving of responsibility has been matched by changes in calculating the IT funding for each CCG, to a “fair share” allocation formula.

Further complicating the picture, NHS Digital is developing a new GP IT delivery model, to replace the GP Systems of Choice framework contracts which expires in December, 2018.