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Independents' Day

GPs told to avoid asking NHS England questions due to staff shortages

GP practices have been told they should not expect NHS England to answer their questions and have been encouraged instead by area team managers to instead ‘support each other’ if they need information.

NHS England told GPs in London that they did not have the sufficient staff to answer queries and that practice managers should be looking to set up ‘peer networks’ to support each other.

The admission - which has concerned LMC leaders - comes as practices continue to experience delays and missing payments from NHS England.

LMC leaders from City and Hackney said that they were given the advice at a recent meeting with NHS England representatives aimed at ironing out issues concerning communication problems and delayed payments.

City and Hackney LMC chair Dr Deborah Colvin told Pulse that the message from area team managers was ‘Don’t ask questions, we don’t have the capacity to answer you’.

She said: ‘What is difficult is when there is uncertainty or ambiguity. Then you need to be able to ask questions of the people who are supposedly going to pay you or not pay you depending on how you have followed instructions.

‘PCTs helped practice managers out quite a lot when they had queries about their contract or all sorts of things [but] NHS England were clear that that wasn’t actually what their remit was, they have far less staff. The implication was that practice managers needed to ask each other instead.’

The admission comes after a top manager at NHS England admitted it was making a ‘mess’ of commissioning primary care and needs the expertise of CCGs which are much closer to practices.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the best way for NHS England to reduce the number of enquiries from practices would be to sort out the outstanding problems with payments.

He said: ‘The best way for NHS England to reduce practices contacting them so frequently is to sort the payment problems out.’

A spokesperson for NHS England in London said: ‘NHS England provides support to GP practices in their development needs, as well as managing and overseeing contracts. However, NHS England’s role is different from that of previous PCTs and it was never exected to offer the same scope of support that practices used to receive.

‘We are working with LMCs to discuss how practice managers can work together, and with CCG colleagues, to support each other and resolve other queries proactively. Creating networks of peer-support is also an important theme in our Call to Action for Primary Care.’

Readers' comments (22)

  • Maybe if they hadn't clocked off early on Xmas eve or indeed wasted time phoning practices that genuinely didn't have work to do (unlike them) things would be a bit better?

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  • Vinci Ho

    That is the mentality of 'Small government , big society' when it comes to actual problem solving. Hence , DIY and find your own money , the government has got none......

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  • I suspect if a CCG was having trouble like the NHS England would come down on them like a ton of bricks.

    In fact if a GP surgery who has staffing problems, paid to delegate work to a 3rd party to ease their staff problems on Christmas eve, despite the practice taking appropriate action to protect patients, NHS England would have been cross about it.

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  • When you squeeze all the goodwill out of GPs by enforced contract changes, inappropriate workload management and a media campaign designed to make their working life miserable, it takes some nerve to then ask for GP assistance when NHS England are struggling.

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  • Oh good: NHS England now know what it feels like to have too high a demand. We should keep up the pressure. Maybe they and their staff should be asked to work 24/7 to ensure they get on top of their workload. (For no more money, of course.) Maybe we ought to invite them to a whole host of time-wasting meetings, just to help them on their way, ensure they behave professionally and give true value for the vast amounts of public money spent on them. And perhaps we ought to remind them that they should be doing all this perfectly - then given a 10% cut in their staff costs. They should also be reminded that continuous year on year improvement is mandatory or else questions will be asked.

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  • Vinci Ho

    See ,
    I love to see a scene where these staff in NHSE scream, 'can't take this any more !!!' , then run around like the Minions in Despicable Me(1&2).

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  • Peter Swinyard

    So they cant pay us on time and now they cant answer the phone. Time to promote someone then. Obviously.

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  • Just a thought.... but if hospitals and GPs will be asked to work 7 days a week, we would need 7 day access to NHSE. They won't need more money or staff, there can just be a rota to spread the staff across 7 days.

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  • Time to sack NHSE, they obviously can't do their job. Too being trying to Police us to concentrate on their own weaknesses.

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  • I am sure that the most important 'query' that practices have made to NSHE is: WHEN are we going to be PAID for work that we have done months ago? The new CQRS system is the pain problem; we all have made our claims since July last year using a completely new system without training whatsoever; yet I was told in December 2013 that people responsible for paying those claims had still not yet been trained on CQRS... What a joke...

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