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NHS England to fund 22,000 practice staff to support GPs

NHS England will fund 22,000 additional practice staff – including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

The announcement comes as the BMA secured today a new five-year contractual agreement with NHS England.

They will be employed as part of networks, which will receive 70% recurrent funding for physiotherapists, physician associates, clinical pharmacists and community paramedics and 100% funding for social prescribers.

The funding will begin this year for social prescribers and pharmacists, and this will include those pharmacists already appointed by networks from previous schemes.

Physios and physician associates will be funded from 2020, while paramedics will be funded from 2021.

According to NHS England, wider teams in practices are likely to ‘improve patient experience, ensuring they are seen by the correct professional at the right time, and help GPs manage their workloads’.

Earlier this week, NHS England announced that primary care networks will be supported by 1,000 social prescribing workers by April 2021.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Recent years have seen hard-working family doctors deal with an overstretched workforce doing their best to meet rising demand from patients suffering more and more complex conditions, all on the back of a decade of underinvestment in general practice.

‘Support and funding for primary care networks mean practices can work together, led by a single GP, and employ additional staff to provide a range of services in the local area, ensuring patients have ready access to the right healthcare professional, and helping reduce workload pressures on GPs.’

NHS England said that the increased workforce will add to the 5,000 additional staff that have been recruited in practices over the last four years.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While our prime objective must remain the recruitment and retention of thousands more GPs, we welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.

’Primary care networks have been shown to be beneficial in terms of increased peer support, building resilience in the system and pooling resources. It is vital that these networks are GP-led, prioritise continuity of care for those patients who need it, and are implemented in a way that minimises disruption for hard-pressed GPs and our teams and protects the ability of GPs to deliver care in the way that best meets the needs of their local communities.’