The model that primary care networks (PCNs) use to recruit additional roles staff has ‘worsened’ health inequalities, a BMA representative has said.
Addressing the House of Commons health and social care committee today, BMA GP Committee deputy chair for England Dr Kieran Sharrock suggested that the current PCN funding model makes it harder for practices in more deprived areas to recruit staff.
The additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) funds PCNs to hire non-GP staff, including paramedics, physiotherapists and healthcare assistants, and is one of the biggest incentives for practices to sign up to the Network DES.
But Dr Sharrock said that practices in more deprived areas struggle to attract staff and so do not benefit from ARRS funding compared with practices in affluent areas who typically face fewer recruitment challenges.
He said: ‘One of our concerns is that the current new funding model for general practice, which is primary care networks, has actually worsened health inequalities.’
He added: ‘In an affluent area where it’s easy to recruit already, they receive the funding for extra staff, so the people of that population get better care.
‘In a less affluent area, which is less attractive, they can’t recruit, so they don’t get funding.’
Dr Sharrock told MPs that the ARRS is ‘very prescriptive’ and stated that providing greater flexibility around hiring would allow PCNs to hire staff in line with the needs of their population as well as local availability.
For example, a PCN that might benefit from or be able to recruit ‘four or five’ social prescribers should not be limited to just one per 100,000 patients, he suggested.
He added: ‘Allow them to recruit an extra doctor if they can or an extra nurse, but at the moment, the additional roles reimbursement scheme is very prescriptive and isn’t flexible and is making health inequalities worse.’
And a King’s Fund report this month warned that PCNs have ‘inadequate funding’ and support to implement the additional roles scheme, with many networks lacking ‘a clear, shared overall purpose’.
It said that there is ‘a risk that the scheme will fail to have the intended impact’ on reducing pressures in general practice.
More to follow