PCNs can now recruit 1,000 GP assistants and 1,250 digital transformation leads ahead of the winter, NHS England has said.
NHS England recently announced that the two new roles would be added to the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) this month.
But it today announced that this would amount to ‘more than 1,000’ GP assistants and ‘up to 1,250’ digital transformation leads.
This equates to approximately one of each role in each PCN.
NHS England said that the new staff would mean GPs’ ‘time can be freed up to see more patients during winter’.
And it revealed more details on the tasks the roles would encompass.
It said: ‘GP assistants will be trained to do blood pressure checks, heart rate and blood tests as well as arranging appointments, referrals and follow up care for patients.’
They will also ‘offer more admin support with the roles already proven to reduce the time GPs spend on tasks such as writing letters by more than two-fifths’, it added.
According to reporting in the Mail Online, GP assistants will also deliver jabs, explain treatments and act as a ‘middleman’ with other health and care providers – and may also take ‘brief medical histories before patients see their GP’.
Meanwhile, the new digital leads will ‘make sure practices are using the latest technology to offer more telephone lines, monitor their call response times or offer support with the NHS app which, from November, will help patients review their test results’, NHS England said.
National director of primary and community care Dr Amanda Doyle said: ‘Giving patients timely and convenient access to GPs and primary care is vital, especially during winter, which is why we are introducing brand new roles and giving GPs more flexibility to create teams that best meet the needs of their local population.
‘NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to deliver record numbers of GP appointments for patients, with 11 million more this year so far than the same period last year, and more than four in five people who book an appointment seen within two weeks, including two fifths who are seen on the same day.’
She added: ‘The introduction of GP assistants can reduce the time doctors spend on correspondence by up to 85%, while also carrying out basic clinical tasks such as taking patients’ blood pressure and heart rate, meaning doctors have more time to do what they care about most – treating patients – while digital leads will help practices use the latest technology to manage demand and capacity.’
NHS England said the move comes as GPs ‘are experiencing record demand’ and studies show that ‘more than a quarter of appointments could be carried out by other professionals, replaced by self-care, or were not needed at all’.
It also confirmed that the number of advanced practitioners (APs) working in PCNs will be doubled to ‘up to 2,500’ in England and reiterated that it is ‘simplifying funding arrangements so nursing associates can train to become registered nurses in general practice’.
The new roles were first announced as part of the health secretary’s plan to improve access to GP practices, which also included two-week GP appointment targets and the new publication of practice-level appointment data.
Pulse previously reported that GP assistants can be trained in practice, with on-the-job development led by GPs alongside access to HEE’s accredited training route.
The role will be subject to maximum reimbursement equivalent of an Agenda for Change band 4 level, which ranges from £23,949 to £26,282 depending on experience.
Digital transformation leads, capped at one per PCN, will have a maximum reimbursement rate equivalent to the Agenda for Change band 8a, ranging from £48,526 to £54,619.
Pulse revealed in July that up to 40% of funding available for hiring additional roles staff was unspent in each of the first two years of the scheme.
And a large study found that employing healthcare workers other than GPs or nurses leads to a drop in patient satisfaction.