Following the announcement that the current managers of the Folkestone East Family Practice will not to continue with their contract to deliver GP services beyond November this year, I have written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, asking for his support to ensure that residents continue to receive a good and improving service.
I have now received his response which is published in full below, setting out his commitment to support our local GP services and provide more financial support from the government to our NHS.
Thank you very much indeed for raising these important issues about local GP provision with me, in particular the future of the East Folkestone GP practice. The constraints of the purdah campaign period limit the action I can take immediately but I want to assure you that if we are back in government after the General Election we will make it a priority to get to the bottom of this. General Practice in this country is the backbone of our NHS and we will ensure your local GPs have the appropriate resources, and that all of your constituents can count on a good and improving local service. We would not allow local people in Folkestone to go without access to this critical service. Indeed, as today’s manifesto sets out, we have plans to further improve access to GP services, including at evenings and weekends.
You mentioned that money is an issue. On funding generally, we today set out that under a Conservative government, the NHS budget will increase by at least £8 billion a year in real terms over the next parliament. We have already begun to reverse the historic decline in funding for primary care, increasing its budget by 8% in real terms over the past 3 years. A priority for the additional funding announced today will be investing in general practice, in line with the NHS Five Year Forward View plan which already sets out steps to continue to increase investment in GP services, so that by 2020/21, funding will rise by £2.4 billion, a 14% real terms increase. Locally, changes to the way NHS funding is allocated were made to better identify and support pockets of deprivation, so when appropriate I would be happy to ask NHS England to consider how this has impacted Folkestone.
You also mentioned recruitment, which is an urgent priority and one on which NHS England, along with the Government and GP leaders, has developed detailed plans to boost GP numbers. Numbers entering GP training are up 10% since 2015, while practical steps are in place to boost GP retention including the GP Career Plus scheme, the Time to Care programme to reduce workload and an NHS GP Health Service, to support doctors suffering from mental ill-health. I would be happy, if returned as Health Secretary, to work with NHS England to see what additional support can be provided to Folkestone and the surrounding area.
Finally on estates, I would be happy to look at what more can be done to support the modernisation of primary care premises in Folkestone. NHS England has upgraded a number of primary care facilities nationwide, with 800 more infrastructure projects picked for investment over the next two years.
I hope this provides some reassurance about how important we view these services and that there are plans in place to ensure patients will continue to get good access to GPs.
Secretary of State for Health