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Vulnerable GP practices’ £46m support scheme out to tender



NHS England is running a competitive tender for GPs and wider primary care organisations to provide support for vulnerable practices, with a view to unveiling the scheme in June.

The much-delayed £46m scheme – first announced last summer in health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’ – will include coaching and mentoring support for practices identified as ‘vulnerable’ and help in diagnosing their problems.

Speaking at the LMCs Conference in London last week, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said an announcement on the scheme would be made next month.

Pulse has learned that a ‘prior information notice’ has been published by NHS England to sound out organisations who can potentially provide support to vulnerable practices. 

Those successful in the tender will be paid to provide support under the £10m vulnerable practices fund announced last year, and boosted by £16m in the GP Forward View last month.

The notice says providers will be expected to help vulnerable practices with: 

  • diagnostic support (identifying the detailed needs of the practice);
  • practice management (strategic and operational development);
  • leadership and management (development of skills, organisational structure);
  • infrastructure (IT, HR, premises, finance), organisational development (mergers);
  • mentoring and coaching;
  • and reports/analysis.

NHS England has previously said providers could include ‘good local practices, GP federations, LMCs or wider primary care organisations who are able to organise and deliver a peer support offer’.

In the notice, NHS England said that it was ‘more difficult’ to provide support to primary care providers compared with ‘other NHS providers’ due to the ‘sheer volume and diversity of practices’ but also because ’there appears to be more competition constraints than apply to other providers’.

It added: ‘The intention in developing this framework is to facilitate support to primary care providers in a way that moves towards greater resilience and a strategically aligned sustainable model of care.’

Interested providers can attend two ‘market engagement’ events, one in London and one in Leeds, on 28 and 29 June respectively.

NHS England had told regional teams in a letter in December that it hoped to have the framework up and running within ‘3-6 months’, and Pulse has already reported on one practice that has been closed down by the CQC while awaiting vulnerable practice support.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has defended the Government’s support measures for general practice against criticism that they were taking too long to materialise.

Last year, NHS England appointed 21 providers that can step in and take over the running of struggling GP practices at short notice in the south of England, including federations, foundation trusts and corporates. 

Who is considered ‘vulnerable’?

Pulse has been pressing for immediate support for vulnerable practices across the UK since 2014 through its Stop Practice Closures campaign. This development sees NHS England finally moving forward with their scheme.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the fund in his ‘new deal’ last year, and NHS England said in December that practices with poor CQC ratings or higher-than-average referrals and prescribing would be prioritised.

By March 2016, NHS England had formally identified more than 800 GP practices as vulnerable as part of its work to allocate £10m worth of support funding.

It found the situation was worst in the North Midlands where 22% of practices were identified as struggling. In London and South Central, around a sixth of practices have been identified as eligible for support funds.

The General Practice Forward View, published last month, pledged to add another £16m to the initial £10m vulnerable practices’ fund.