A CCG has rowed back on an instruction to primary care networks (PCNs) that they should stop claiming funding for Covid vaccination staff hired under the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS).
NHS North Central London CCG said that it sent the instruction in error, but failed to clarify to Pulse the reason for the mistake.
GP leaders said the CCG’s ‘demands’ for funding to be returned was ‘not a professional approach’, especially while practices remain under pressure to deliver vaccines while also providing core services.
On 23 July, PCN clinical directors were told in an email from the CCG that ‘PCNs should not be claiming for [ARRS] staff either wholly or partly working their core hours in vaccination sites’.
The email, seen by Pulse, added: ‘We have been asked to reject these claims as it is not a valid use of the funding. The vaccination site staff are funded by the IOS [item of service] fees.’
Pulse understands PCNs who had already had funding claims approved would have seen the money clawed back from April 2021 onwards.
However, an NHS England spokesperson told Pulse last week (5 August) that the CCG has since altered its stance.
A spokesperson for the CCG added that the initial email was sent in error.
A statement made by NHS North Central London CCG said: ‘The CCG would like to clarify the position on Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) staff supporting the vaccination programme.
‘Staff funded via ARRS, from the NCL ARRS allocation, are able to be fully deployed onto the vaccination programme. There will be no claw back of the funding.’
Dr Tina Agrawal, joint chair of Camden LMC, said: ‘It is a shame to see this lapse in the constructive discourse that LMCs, practices and commissioners have worked to sustain since the start of the pandemic.
‘Bypassing dialogue and going straight to sending demands for claw-back is not a professional approach, particularly at a time when practices remain under immense pressure from Covid and the pent-up demand for routine care created during the pandemic.’
She added: ‘We hope to see an apology about the way this has been handled and look forward to a restoration of a collaborative approach from commissioners, working with general practice in North Central London in the best interests of patients.’
PCNs have so far hired more than 9,000 clinical staff under ARRS scheme, according to NHS England.
This represents around a third of the target 26,000 ARRS staff expected to be recruited by 2024 – including roles such as physiotherapists and pharmacists – after the scheme was brought in as a core part of the Network Contract DES in 2019/20.
NHS Digital GP vaccination data has shown GP-led sites delivered more than two in three of all Covid vaccinations in the first phase of the Covid vaccination programme, between December and April.
NHS England has said GP involvement will be capped at providing 75% of the vaccines during the third phase of the programme.
A recent survey by Pulse found more than 40% of GPs in England say their PCNs either broke even or made a financial loss by taking part in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.