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RCGP wants to take charge of NHS England’s £40m GP practice support fund

The RCGP is looking to become a national provider of the £40m GP practice resilience programme that was announced in the GP Forward View.

An RCGP spokesperson told Pulse that it ‘plans to engage a selected cluster of practices to gather some intelligence on the suitability of a national offer for vulnerable practices’, adding that the college will ‘be able to provide more details as [this pilot] progresses’.

The pilot, which comes as the first GP practices to receive help from the 2016/17 allocation of £16m are due to be announced by NHS England next week, follows the RCGP’s current programme for providing advice and mentoring to practices rated inadequate by the CQC and helping them out of special measures.

Dr Sue Rendel, clinical lead for the RCGP special measures programme, said the college wants to get involved with the practice resilience fund in order to ensure practices receive help at an earlier stage than they have to date.

Speaking at the RCGP Annual Conference last week, Dr Rendel said ‘RCGP is piloting an offer to commissioners for upstream support to vulnerable practices’.

Dr Rendel said the special measures programme had ‘a really good result’ in that 13 out of 64 practices targeted had gone from a CQC ‘inadequate’ to a ‘good’ rating.

But she added that the college hoped the practice resilience programme could lead to earlier help for practices.

She said: ‘We are moving in to develop an offer for supporting vulnerable practices, with the idea of trying to stop them going through the agonies of going into special measures. We’re just running a pilot at the moment and we are very hopeful that that’s something the college will continue to do.

‘I think it will be really important for us, rather than just pilot from the centre, to make sure we use local groups, local faculties and make sure we’re devolving the support the college can offer.’

RCGP chair Professor Maureen Baker said: ‘The college is not looking to “take charge” of the £40m fund, but we have developed a pilot scheme to help vulnerable practices and offer them support before they end up in special measures.

‘If the pilot is successful following evaluation, we plan to bid for NHS England funding to roll this out wider through the multi-provider procurement framework being established. Ultimately it will be individual CCGs that will decide which services to commission in the best interests of their local population.”

Pulse recently revealed that practices had been left to struggle, and had even closed, while waiting on pledged support from the resilience programme’s predecessor, the £10m vulnerable practice fund announced by NHS England last year.

NHS England’s vulnerable practice scheme had identified around 800 practices across the country as being in need of support at the start of the year, but LMCs across the country have said that practices have not received material support.

Part of this was put down to the fact that they had to match any funding received with their own investment – a requirement that NHS England scrapped in July.

And at the unveiling of the GP Forward View earlier this year, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said practice’s cynicism over whether funding would materialise this time was ‘understandable’.

It all comes as Pulse revealed this week that some NHS England managers are willing to let GP practices ‘fail and wither’, unless they conform to ‘transformation’ plans.

The practice resilience fund

According to NHS England board papers, the ‘menu of support’ available from the £40m general practice resilience programme will include:

  • ‘rapid intervention and management support for practices at risk of closure;
  • coordinated support to help practices struggling with workforce issues, such as access to experienced clinical capacity or to develop skill mix;
  • change management and improvement support to individual practices or groups of practices, and
  • no longer require matching funds from affected practices.’

Different areas of the country will be allocated differing shares of the fund, with the most (£1,554,000) going to Yorkshire and the Humber.

The first GP practices to receive help from the 2016/17 allocation of £16m are due to be announced next week.