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NHS England offers GP practices ‘sustainability’ assessment

An NHS England regional team has developed a GP practice ‘health check’ tool to determine their sustainability.

The tool is based around a serious of questions for the practice, including whether it has analysed peaks and troughs in demand and ‘considered different models of access’ such as Skype appointments or telephone triage to manage demand.

The health tool, available to practices across Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset, is a first step for practices accessing NHS England South West’s dedicated general practice sustainability scheme, which offers management support and advice on how to work more efficiently and networking with other practices for example.

The initiative, which is funded by NHS England but does not offer direct financial support for practices, comes as the GPC has pleaded with NHS England to step up support for practices at risk of closures via a dedicated support fund.

The health check tool also suggests practices ensure they have a ‘succession plan’ in place for when members of the clinical workforce retire; is aware of current vacancy levels and how much it is relying on locums; and asks if the practice has ‘considered other professionals to deliver services e.g. pharmacists’

Aside from analysing the supply and demand situation, it also suggests a practice sustainability concern would be if the ‘draw down for a partner (per session) [is] less than the practice would pay for a locum per session.’

NHS England (South West) said in a statement: ‘The Supporting Sustainable General Practice initiative aims to fulfil NHS England’s ambition to support innovative and improved models of primary care, by designing a process which can take Practices on a journey from the provision of tools to enable to them to identify viability and sustainability, to helping them explore aims and objectives, potential design solutions and transform into sustainable organisational forms.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised £10 million towards supporting struggling practices as part of the ‘new deal’ in June, however Pulse revealed that this was not new money and would only be made available to practices in CQC enforcement.