NHS England has announced that 98% of GP practices have signed up to the primary care network DES this year.
It said this translates to 1,250 networks across England, which is the same number as last year.
However, a Pulse analysis of data supplied by CCGs showed that a slighty larger number of practices have opted out this year compared to last, with at least 43 declining compared with 25 last year.
NHS England’s announcement said that the ‘near total’ uptake ‘reflects support’ for PCNs which are ‘helping improve care for patients across the country’.
NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘The determination from everyone to put general practice on a stronger footing so that it can deliver the services patients need has been extremely encouraging.
‘[W]e benefited from extensive engagement with the proposals on this and I’m pleased that we can now move forward together and deliver on our shared goals to provide extra support for practices that need it, large or small.’
NHS England added that 100% of care homes already have an identified clinical lead and over 99% deliver weekly virtual check-ins for residents as part of the general practice response to coronavirus.
But the news comes as at least one PCN – serving 80,000 patients – has collapsed due to concerns about the care homes requirements of the network DES, while one LMC told their practices that they could not advise signing up for the DES due to workload requirements.
In the run-up to the deadline for the decision on 31 May, the BMA warned that practices not signing up for the network DES ‘risk losing influence’ over the development of GP services in the future.
An email bulletin to GPs from Dr Kanani and NHS England primary care strategy and contracts director Ed Waller said PCNs should now go ahead and recruit the extra staff that the DES will fund.
The email said: ‘We know that recruiting will have been difficult over recent weeks and understand that PCNs will have got off to a slower start this year than ideal.
‘We want to encourage you to take steps now to make sure the investment offered to primary care for additional workforce is used this year.’