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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

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)

  • Can some one confirm:
    Is this about GPs not being paid at all (as I understood they are all salaried not paid per patient/activity) or the practice/business not getting for their GPs doing their job (i.e. seeing/treating patients) - or have I got this completely wrong??

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  • We stood still and allowed these changes. Why are we surprised. Perhaps we can start by taking some serious action; vote of no confidence anyone?

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  • RE - 1121
    I recall the move to localised commissioning and GP lead decision making was based on something called practice based commissioning, and that many GPs and health workers believed that PCTs were all bureaucratic and pointless?
    If people feel they stood by rather than speak out to stop or support the changes, surely it's a bit late to complain? Maybe more change isn't what's needed now??

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  • "NHS England provides support to GP practices in their development needs..."

    I've heard a few whoppers in my time but this one surely takes the biscuit?

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  • Anon @ 11:19 - you have it completely wrong.

    Most GPs are not salaried but are self employed independent contractors. Not sure how you don't know that if you're a healthcare professional yourself - unless you aren't of course - in which case, this site is not directed at you :-)

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  • Anon 1119
    Thanks for the clarification. You're right I'm not a GP but find how fellow healthcare professionals are employed very interesting.
    It strikes me that the problem for GPs is therefore one about the "business" not getting paid, which is a common problem for any.
    Similarly, it might be a bit harsh to blame our colleagues on the problems caused by the software; no doubt it was forced on them as well.
    Wouldn't life be so much easier if we were all direct employees of the same "business", then we could be left to get on with delivering the care we want rather then getting caught up with these seemingly constant contractual, legal and financial wranglings?!? ;)

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  • I wonder what CQC would think of this if they where visiting a practice and received this as an answer as why they didn't answer the phones?

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  • Q. What is the point of NHS England? A. To waste tax-payers money dealing with the pithy things. Sure ain't to do with management and leadership. What a joke!!!

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  • NHS England is not fit for purpose.
    end of.(and i pray for their end)

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  • Personally I think some GP practices ought to get together and sue NHSE for breach of contract. Not being paid for work done is a great example.

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