GPs in England have been given two weeks to vote on the future of the Primary Care Networks (PCN) DES.
The BMA has urged GPs to ‘consider the potential implications and consequences’ of their vote.
The BMA today announced that polling is open for all practising GPs in England – including partners, sessional GPs and trainees – on whether the DES ‘should continue’.
GPs will be able to cast votes from today until 23:59 on 19 January.
The ballot asks: ‘Prior to any further negotiations, extension or changes for 2021/22, do you give GPC England a mandate for the PCN directed enhanced service?’
The BMA said this would inform ‘future negotiations’ – with GPC continuing to negotiate ‘amendments’ to the DES for its remaining three years if general practice votes in favour.
This would cover the service specification, further workforce expansion, the investment and impact fund and ‘how the access scheme funding can be used’, it added.
Amendments would be negotiated and implemented annually, although timelines ‘may change in order to support general practice in responding to the current pandemic’, the BMA said.
Practices would retain the opportunity to opt out of the DES ‘within the annual window’, it added.
However, the BMA warned that if GPs vote against the mandate, ‘GPC England will be unable to continue discussions with NHS England regarding the DES’.
It added: ‘It will then be for NHSE England to decide how it wishes to proceed with arrangements for PCNs and the DES with its associated funding.’
This could include offering the DES to practices ‘without GPC/BMA involvement in its continued development’, transferring the requirements and associated funding to non-GP providers and removing ‘some or all of the funding’ to be used ‘elsewhere’ in the NHS, it said.
The BMA added: ‘NHS England and Government have consistently stated that PCN DES funding would not be made available for investment directly into global sum or other core elements of the practice contract.
‘It is therefore extremely important that participants consider the potential implications and consequences of a yes or no vote.’
The motion passed by delegates at the England LMCs conference in November with a 62% majority said the BMA’s GP Committee ‘has never secured a robust democratic mandate for the PCN DES’.
The introduction of the PCN DES last year was mired in controversy, including becoming subject to a special LMC conference which voted to reject it.
At the time, NHS England’s announcement said that the ‘near total’ uptake ‘reflects support’ for PCNs which are ‘helping improve care for patients across the country’.
Practices were also given an opportunity to opt out of the DES in September, after NHS England updated it.