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NHS England to fund 22,000 practice staff to support GPs

NHS England will fund 22,000 additional practice staff – including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

The announcement comes as the BMA secured today a new five-year contractual agreement with NHS England.

They will be employed as part of networks, which will receive 70% recurrent funding for physiotherapists, physician associates, clinical pharmacists and community paramedics and 100% funding for social prescribers.

The funding will begin this year for social prescribers and pharmacists, and this will include those pharmacists already appointed by networks from previous schemes.

Physios and physician associates will be funded from 2020, while paramedics will be funded from 2021.

According to NHS England, wider teams in practices are likely to ‘improve patient experience, ensuring they are seen by the correct professional at the right time, and help GPs manage their workloads’.

Earlier this week, NHS England announced that primary care networks will be supported by 1,000 social prescribing workers by April 2021.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Recent years have seen hard-working family doctors deal with an overstretched workforce doing their best to meet rising demand from patients suffering more and more complex conditions, all on the back of a decade of underinvestment in general practice.

‘Support and funding for primary care networks mean practices can work together, led by a single GP, and employ additional staff to provide a range of services in the local area, ensuring patients have ready access to the right healthcare professional, and helping reduce workload pressures on GPs.’

NHS England said that the increased workforce will add to the 5,000 additional staff that have been recruited in practices over the last four years.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While our prime objective must remain the recruitment and retention of thousands more GPs, we welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.

’Primary care networks have been shown to be beneficial in terms of increased peer support, building resilience in the system and pooling resources. It is vital that these networks are GP-led, prioritise continuity of care for those patients who need it, and are implemented in a way that minimises disruption for hard-pressed GPs and our teams and protects the ability of GPs to deliver care in the way that best meets the needs of their local communities.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • Reporting figures across England of 22,000 extra staff sounds impressive, but works out on average as an extra 2.75 per practice. I'd rather have another GP, as more efficient than the 2.75. Introducing these numbers over the next 5 years is unlikely to compensate for the existing short fall or the numbers of GPs expected to leave over this period. Nothing in this to entice GPs who are considering retiring in the next couple of years, to linger on.

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  • Exactly the exodus will continue.

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  • Let common sense prevail

    I disagree. 2.75 extra staff in my practice would allow me to shed 90% of repeat prescribing/drug audit/medication queries (pharmacist, and perhaps 75% of visits (paramedic). There is the potential here to make a real difference to my working day/health/sanity.

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  • it really depends on the staff you get, however they are not as knowledgeable as a GP and see less patients or do less in a 10 min appointment. they are cheaper to employ, they refer more and use up more resources in the long run so there is no real cost savings. it helps for a bit then they fully booked and you are back to square one. as it is i have seen nothing in any of these proposals that would induce me to stay any longer than i have to as a GP. very much too little too late.

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  • If the BMA/RCGP genuinely wanted to retain GPs they would be campaigning to end Appraisal and Revalidation, and to close down the CQC. This would free up huge amounts of GP time, release millions that could be spent on something useful instead, and improve GP morale instantly.

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  • I am seeing half of the patients my nurse's see plus their unnecessary results and the ones that return. Just delaying and making things harder plus the numbers are laughable. It is unhelpful and will just raise workload calling us for low sats on cold fingers. The exodus will continue.

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  • We will have an army of social prescribers as they attract 100% funding. Where will the 30% of other staff funding come from? Oh another pay cut for GP's of course? And what about year 2,3 etc?

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  • More details -
    By 2024, NHS England expects that a typical network will have five clinical pharmacists (equivalent of one per practice), three social prescribers, three first contact physiotherapists, two physician associates and one community paramedic.
    - This is across 5 practices with 10k patients each.
    A drop of additional roles in an overwhelming ocean of unscheduled care.

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