NHS England has asked integrated care boards (ICBs) to identify where to allocate potential winter support funding to GP practices and PCNs in their area, if such funding were to materialise.
It said they should also identify how ‘system development funding’ (SDF) – allocated annually to local commissioners under the long-term plan – should be targeted to support practices.
In a letter sent to all GP practices and PCNs yesterday, NHS England said that a new ICB framework will help local commissioners ‘rapidly assess’ where to allocate funding – for both ‘rapid improvement’ and longer-term access improvements in general practice.
It added that local commissioners should prioritise resources where they are most needed, such as in deprived areas or those with the ‘most serious recruitment challenges’.
NHS England said it is looking to ‘identify where additional capital should be made available via ICBs later in the year’ for GP resilience over the winter, ‘should it be made available’.
It suggested that areas for further investment might be digital interoperability tools for cross-PCN working such as enhanced access, estates improvements such as creating additional consulting rooms or increased automation of practices’ back-office work.
NHS England added that the framework aims to build an ‘ongoing quality improvement support process’ for practices and PCNs.
ICBs were asked to return their submissions by 21 October ‘at the latest’ and NHS England stressed that local commissioners will not submit detail on individual practices or PCNs.
What winter support funding could GP practices receive?
NHS England said its new framework would ‘support ICS teams to rapidly assess the needs of their practices/PCNs, building on local knowledge, and identify the practical and supportive interventions that would be most appropriate in the short term to boost resilience and patient access’.
The letter said: ‘The purpose of this framework is to support integrated care boards (ICBs) and practices/ PCNs to determine where investment can be best targeted to enable rapid improvement in patient and staff experience in general practice and to ensure that existing good practice is identified so that it can be built on and shared across the system.’
It added: ‘The first part of the framework should be completed by ICS teams and will be used to inform scoping for how any additional capital funding which may be available later in the year for primary care could be used, as described below, and to help identify how other resources (eg SDF) should be targeted.
‘ICS teams are encouraged to return submissions for possible areas of use for capital funding as soon as possible, and by 21 October at the latest.’
And it said: ‘We are also seeking to identify where additional capital – should it be made available via ICBs later in the year, alongside usual revenue funds (system development funding [SDF]) – could be used to make a difference to primary care delivery and resilience over winter.’
‘Collated returns of section 1 of the framework above and feedback from ICSs via regional teams will support the national team to identify where capital might be spent, should funding become available later in the year. For any identified areas for capital investment, systems will need to consider whether the revenue impact can be locally absorbed or be clear where that is not possible.’
NHS England said that system development funding (SDF) should ‘also be utilised to support the programmes of work identified via the framework process’.
It added that the ‘second part of the framework covers areas where support may be needed to help improve patient access and staff experience over the longer term, with the aim of building an ongoing quality improvement support process within primary care, supported by ongoing SDF or other transformation funding’.
NHS England’s letter also set out various other measures to support general practice over the winter, including changes to the PCN DES such as retiring or deferring four investment and impact fund (IIF) indicators worth £37m and allocating this funding to PCNs via a monthly payment.
It also scrapped the controversial shared decision-making training for all PCN clinical staff.
Meanwhile, NHS England also announced that it has commissioned the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) to identify how better working together between primary and secondary care can alleviate winter pressures.
The letter said: ‘We are taking several steps over the next few weeks to support the expansion of general practice capacity and reduce both workload and administrative burden.
‘The measures will help general practice focus on access pressures and facilitate system collaboration, working with local providers to manage urgent demand and help address workload challenges.’