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GPs told to avoid asking NHS England questions due to staff shortages

GP practices have been told they should not expect NHS England to answer their questions and have been encouraged instead by area team managers to instead ‘support each other’ if they need information.

NHS England told GPs in London that they did not have the sufficient staff to answer queries and that practice managers should be looking to set up ‘peer networks’ to support each other.

The admission – which has concerned LMC leaders – comes as practices continue to experience delays and missing payments from NHS England.

LMC leaders from City and Hackney said that they were given the advice at a recent meeting with NHS England representatives aimed at ironing out issues concerning communication problems and delayed payments.

City and Hackney LMC chair Dr Deborah Colvin told Pulse that the message from area team managers was ‘Don’t ask questions, we don’t have the capacity to answer you’.

She said: ‘What is difficult is when there is uncertainty or ambiguity. Then you need to be able to ask questions of the people who are supposedly going to pay you or not pay you depending on how you have followed instructions.

‘PCTs helped practice managers out quite a lot when they had queries about their contract or all sorts of things [but] NHS England were clear that that wasn’t actually what their remit was, they have far less staff. The implication was that practice managers needed to ask each other instead.’

The admission comes after a top manager at NHS England admitted it was making a ‘mess’ of commissioning primary care and needs the expertise of CCGs which are much closer to practices.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the best way for NHS England to reduce the number of enquiries from practices would be to sort out the outstanding problems with payments.

He said: ‘The best way for NHS England to reduce practices contacting them so frequently is to sort the payment problems out.’

A spokesperson for NHS England in London said: ‘NHS England provides support to GP practices in their development needs, as well as managing and overseeing contracts. However, NHS England’s role is different from that of previous PCTs and it was never exected to offer the same scope of support that practices used to receive.

‘We are working with LMCs to discuss how practice managers can work together, and with CCG colleagues, to support each other and resolve other queries proactively. Creating networks of peer-support is also an important theme in our Call to Action for Primary Care.’