NHS England will be offering ‘up to’ a reported £200,000 per selected primary care network ‘accelerator’ site, Pulse has learnt.
Two documents seen by Pulse revealed that NHS England is planning to shortlist ‘up to’ two places per STP region – with a maximum of 14 – as part of the ‘accelerators’ project.
Under the plans, each place meeting a set of criteria, including sites that are in a ‘good position to make progress during 2019/20’, will receive a funding envelope worth up to £200,000 – out of an earmarked funding pot of £3m – through the national 2019/20 PCN Programme budget.
The funding aims to support places that will ‘develop further and faster over the remainder’ in 2019/20 and make rapid progress in the development of network interactions at place level, among others.
The NHS England documents said: ‘The objective is to support a small cohort of places within ICSs/STPs in 2019/20 that can make rapid progress in the development of PCN interactions at ‘place’ level and therefore in the delivery of [the long-term plan] LTP commitments.
‘This will provide learning for NHSE/NHSI, ICSs and STPs on how groups of PCNs can reach a more mature state of integrated working with ‘place’ partners – and the support and enablers they require – to help inform continued development of PCNs at all stages across England into 2020/21.’
As part of the contract, practices will be provided with extra funding to join networks, which will see groups of practices serve between 30,000 and 50,000 patients.
Practices joining the networks will receive an average uplift of £14,000 through the ‘practice participation’ additional service. This is alongside the millions coming through the networks themselves.
GP leaders criticised the new funding, saying it is ‘divisive’ and might widen existing inequalities between communities.
Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage said: ‘At a time when all practices are struggling to manage their core activity, with a severe shortage of resources, a workforce crisis, and very limited capacity to form PCNs before an already tight timescale, it is questionable whether NHS England should spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to a handful of selected networks, without a clear explanation of how this benefits PCNs as a whole.
‘Or how such divisive and potentially elitist funding will engender the partnership working that the NHS Long Term Plan seeks to achieve.
She added: ‘NHS England should have consulted the profession, in good time, when this funding became available and worked with GPs to understand how they would like to be supported in developing their PCNs. The short notice of this announcement, with scant detail supplied, also suggests insufficient attention has been paid to ensuring a fully open application process. We hope their offer of an extended application deadline will also provide time for NHS England to address these shortcomings.’
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘NHS England should not be launching schemes such as this before they have properly listened to the needs of emerging PCNs and their clinical directors. We only recently became aware that NHS England were having these discussions with regional bodies.
‘Of course, we have previously made our reservations about early-adopter schemes clear, which can often lead to a minority securing unfair additional funding that others are denied, and we would be concerned if this latest plan led to inequity across England.
He continued: ‘PCNs should be built from the ground up and it is crucial that NHS England stops this plan and takes time to properly listen to PCN clinical directors and does not micro-manage this process.’
Walsall LMC medical secretary Dr Uzma Ahmad said: ‘In my opinion, it is just going to widen the inequalities between the communities. The selective funding process is based on success for certain areas.
‘It might just be taken up by those who are well advanced already, for example places working at a larger scale like vanguard sites, and I don’t think that’s fair to do that.’
GPs had originally been informed that the deadline would be next Tuesday. However, an email from NHS England confirmed that there will be more time to make a bid.
NHS England said it will provide further information in ‘due course’.
It follows news that BMA’s legal service has started offering packages for PCNs seeking legal advice at a cost of £5,000 for larger networks.
Earlier this month it was revealed that a GP trainee had been appointed as a PCN clinical director.