Exclusive NHS England bosses have relaxed the requirements for vulnerable GP practices wanting to access emergency support, after reports that practices were being put off for asking for help from the scheme.
The £10m vulnerable practices scheme was announced in December last year, but required that GP practices matched the cash that was given to them from NHS England. But Pulse has learnt that NHS England has now removed this criterion as long as practices could report how the cash will be used ‘in kind’.
The news comes as LMC leaders around England have hit out at the time it is taking for vulnerable practice support to reach practices that are on the brink of closure.
A further £40m of resilience funding was promised in the GP Forward View in April and details of how the £16m pledged for rollout this year can be accessed is expected imminently.
To date, NHS England has sent out a prior information notice about a competitive tender for GPs and wider primary care organisations to provide support, including mentoring and help with IT and practice management.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse that the requirement to match funding from the scheme had been waived for practices.
He said that this had been mentioned in the GP Forward View document published in April, although not widely publicised.
The paragraph says: ‘In order to maximise the impact of this support (£10m), from April 2016, NHS England will offer support to eligible practices that are willing to match fund this additional support, or offer the equivalent resources commitment “in kind”.’
The NHS England spokesperson said that commitment in kind ‘basically means they just have to state the number of days of GP and practice time available and that this is proportionate to the support on offer and achievable for the practice to provide’.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the shift away from matched funding came as a result of pressure from GPC ‘as it was clearly a barrier to practices in difficult situations accessing appropriate funding and support’.
But he added: ‘We remain concerned that the commitments made nationally have yet to be turned in to practical delivery in many local areas, and local CCGs and NHS England need to do more to use this resource as quickly and effectively as possible, as the need is certainly there.’
LMC leaders told Pulse that they were disappointed at the lack of progress in supporting vulnerable practices so far.
Dr Tony Grewal, a medical director at Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘No money has reached practices – or even CCGs – as far as I am aware, on the back of the Forward View undertakings.’
Dr Zoe Norris, a GP in Hull and a representative for Hull and East Yorkshire LMC, said: ‘We haven’t seen a sniff of the funding in Humberside as far as I am aware. I don’t know anywhere that has but plenty who applied for it are in dire straits.’
Manchester LMC chief executive Dr Tracey Vell told Pulse: ‘Last year’s vulnerable practices scheme did not generate much interest due mainly to the part-funding basis for practices already at risk.’
Responding to the claims the funding is delayed, an NHS England spokesperson said: ‘I’m not sure what you mean by delays. This [resilience] scheme was only announced in April, as part of the GP Forward View, and is a five-year project. The £10m Vulnerable Practice Programme was set up as a year-long investment in December 2015, is currently ongoing and has five months to go.’
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker, told Pulse: ‘Our focus now is to ensure that the 108 pledges made in the Forward View are implemented effectively and as a matter of urgency, in the best interests of both general practice and patient care. We are expecting to hear updates on a number of other short-term commitments, including the development of resilience teams to help practices that are struggling, in the near future.’
What does the GP Forward View pledge?
‘In 2015, NHS England committed to invest £10 million to support vulnerable practices. Eligible criteria for accessing this additional support was developed with NHS Clinical Commissioners and other national stakeholders, with around 800 practices identified as meeting the criteria.
This support is designed to build resilience in primary care and to support delivery of new models of care. RCGP support for inadequate rated practices will continue as part of this programme. A multi-supplier (call off) framework will be available to commissioners from September 2016 to support the programme.
This is likely to include a range of local and national providers and may be expanded over time. In order to maximise the impact of this support, from April 2016, NHS England will offer support to eligible practices that are willing to match fund this additional support, or offer the equivalent resources commitment ‘in kind’.
In addition, a further £40 million will now be committed to develop a practice resilience programme, starting with a £16 million boost in 2016/17. We will work with the RCGP and the BMA to develop this programme as quickly as possible, and consider introducing practice resilience teams.’