Local health bosses say it’s a “tragedy” they had to turn down trainee GPs

A stethoscope resting on doctor's (GP) notes
Image: Shutterstock

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes health bosses had to turn down the opportunity to train eight GPs due to a lack of space.

But there isn’t enough funding to provide all the workspaces needed for primary care, a meeting heard.

Felicity Cox, integrated care board (ICB) chief executive, told the Primary Care Commissioning & Assurance Committee Extraordinary [virtual] Meeting held yesterday (January 11) that primary care is “absolutely of crucial importance”.

But the focus has been on the acute hospitals without understanding the impact of not having sufficient space for primary care practitioners.

“I’ll just give you one small example, but there are others, we had eight GP trainees that we would have liked to have brought into Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes who we couldn’t because of the lack of clinical space to be able to train them appropriately,” she said.

“That is a tragedy for our population and the residents that we serve.

“We are well aware that we haven’t, within our nationally allocated funding, sufficient monies to do everything that we would like to do in relation to primary care,” she said.

Dean Westcoff, chief finance officer, said: “We do have an ICB budget of circa £1.7 billion, it’s quite a significant sum of money.

“But going into next year, in terms of the financial settlement we receive, we as a system have a £90 million savings target.

“There are no easy choices here, if we put money into one area we have to take it from somewhere else.

“We have a total budget of £1.6 million for all of the primary care estates, that’s not a lot of money at all.

“Our aim has been, and always will be, to continue to be transparent in our decision-making against what I think everybody will appreciate is a tight public sector financial settlement,” he said.

Nicky Poulain, chief primary care officer, said that there was already a commitment of £1.54 million per annum to fund four schemes.

“Three [additional] schemes were identified as particularly high risk to patient care if they didn’t proceed, so the panel was of the view that these schemes should be the highest priority for any additional available revenue funding,” she said.

“In 21/22 we took the very pragmatic decision to fund four primary care network estates schemes non-recurrently to address the most pressing operational pressures to enable the primary care networks to recruit staff.

“We recognise that risk, but with the hope that national policy would address this issue, so these schemes have been extended non recurrently this year and are operating well,” she said.

Ms Poulain said these 11 schemes total £1.87 million per year, and the recommendation to the committee is that these are supported.

She added that a further 12 schemes were included in the list for prioritisation as they don’t have a material impact on revenue as they sometimes recycling void costs or are as a result of Section 106 funding from new developments.

“The panel is recommending 23 schemes that should be supported at the stage,” she said.

“We recognise that this, unfortunately, does leave 30 schemes which cannot be supported from the primary care delegated budget at this stage.”

Ms Poulain added if any additional funding became available it would be allocated to these schemes based on their priority.

The committee approved the indicative budget, the list of schemes, and to apply any additional funding on a prioritised basis.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

Keep Local news Alive in Bedfordshire