Additional Covid funding for general practice for the second half of this financial year is ‘to be confirmed’, NHS England has revealed.
The latest £120m Covid funding injection to GP practices, for April-September this year, is due to run out next week.
And, although Government recently allocated £5.4bn to the NHS for the next six months to ‘support the Covid response’, it has not clarified if any of this would go towards general practice.
But a new document on relieving pressure on A&E departments, published by NHS England on Wednesday this week, said ‘general capacity funding’ to ‘maximise workforce capacity’ for ‘H2’ of 2021/22 was ‘TBC’.
Other primary care measures to relieve pressure outlined in the document included ‘improvements to remote triage and online consultation access’.
Systems should use national digital first primary care (DFPC) funding ‘to provide support to PCNs and practices to enable effective use of digital tools in general practice‘, it said.
However, the document also said GPs should be striking a ‘balance’ between ‘making best use of technology’ and face-to-face appointments.
PCNs should also increase the the number of patients with ‘low acuity conditions’ that are referred by GP practices to the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) – via a ‘communications push’ by practices and CCGs and the IIF indicator going live 1 October.
They should also focus on boosting recruitment through ARRS and ‘improving GP recruitment and retention’, the document said.
And they should use data provided on ‘the 36k people who have not come into cancer services to support GP practices to identify patients who may have cancer’.
It comes amid escalating abuse from the public and in the media towards GPs and practice teams, prompting the BMA to hold an urgent meeting with the health secretary to discuss its concerns.
The BMA this week warned that a Daily Mail campaign for GPs to see patients face to face as the ‘default’ option risks further fuelling abuse and violence against practices.
Responding to the campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested GPs have a right see patients face to face.
A Pulse survey of 1,000 GPs found that half say that a return to the number of face-to-face appointments would not be possible, as patients are now expecting to have quicker access through remote consultations.
But it also found that the average waiting time for a face-to-face GP appointment is currently significantly shorter than before the Covid-19 pandemic, and patients waited about a week on average for a remote consultation with a GP.