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Primary care networks could serve less than 25,000 patients, says NHS England

Primary care networks could serve a population of less than 25,000, NHS England has said.

Under the new five-year GP contract, practices will be provided with extra funding to join networks, which will see groups of practices serve 30-50,000 patients.

But speaking at Pulse Live today in London, NHS England’s acting director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said networks could be a ‘bit smaller or a big bigger’, stating that relationship prevails over geography.

This comes as BMA GP committee executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told delegates at the Londonwide LMCs’ annual conference that ‘smaller is not necessarily better for the sake of the size of things’ and that if a network is 90,000 and works for the practices then ‘that’s fine’.

When asked by a member of the audience whether a network serving around 25,000 patients would still be viable, Dr Kanani said: ‘I absolutely get that some of them are going to be a bit smaller, some of them a bit bigger.

’For me, relationships trump geographies. I don’t care if primary care networks have funny shapes as well – some of them long, some of them round – the only thing is I don’t want any donuts.’

She added: ’I don’t want people to come together in a primary care network and there’s a population in the middle bit that doesn’t get looked after – that doesn’t feel right – and I don’t want to get involved in the make-up of primary care networks.’

Dr Kanani said further details on the networks will be released shortly. ‘We would make sure we’ve got the right things in place because some of the details on the guidance haven’t been written and published yet so we will make sure there’s flex around the margins,’ she added. 

Earlier this month, Dr Kanani revealed that there was no obligation for GPs to be at the helm of primary care networks

Pulse previously learned that CCGs in some areas of England have been trying to ‘manipulate’ new primary care networks to ensure they align with their own plans.

Timetable for network contract DES introduction

January to April 2019: Primary care networks prepare to meet the Network Contract DES registration requirements

By 29 Mar 2019: NHS England and GPC England jointly issue the Network Agreement and 2019/20 Network Contract DES

By 15 May 2019: All primary care networks submit registration information to their CCG

By 31 May 2019: CCGs confirm network coverage and approve variation to GMS, PMS and APMS contracts

Early Jun: NHS England and GPC England jointly work with CCGs and LMCs to resolve any issues

1 Jul 2019: Network Contract DES goes live across 100% of the country

Jul 2019 to Mar 2020: National entitlements under the 2019/20 Network Contract start:

  • year 1 of the additional workforce reimbursement scheme
  • ongoing support funding for the clinical director
  • ongoing £1.50/head from CCG allocations

Apr 2020 onwards: National Network Services start under the 2020/21 Network Contract DES

Source: A five-year framework for GP contract reform to implement The NHS Long Term Plan