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NHS England will fund new GP care home service and Covid absence locum cover



GP practices are set to receive financial support for staff absence cover due to Covid-19 as well as any extra staff needed to deliver care homes services, NHS England has announced.

Support is ‘anticipated’ to be available ‘retrospectively from a specified date in March 2020 up to end of June 2020 initially before review’, NHS England said.

NHS England announced ‘provisional’ details of the Covid support fund, which remains with the Treasury for sign off, as part of a webinar this evening.

Practices are ‘expected’ to be able to ‘seek approval in advance’ for reimbursement for ‘net additional capacity’ – such as extra staff required ‘as a result of care homes activity’ – NHS England said.

It said: ‘It is expected that practices would be able to seek approval in advance for support where the workload of the practice has increased during the outbreak and there is demonstrable need for net additional capacity from GPs or other staff that cannot be met through redeployment. 

‘For example, this may be required to support additional work involved as a result of care homes activity.’

Speaking in the webinar, NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani added that the £120 per bed outlined in the network DES would not be brought forward to fund the work in care homes.

She reiterated that the ward rounds remain separate to the DES until it begins formally in October and added that it would have been ‘entirely inappropriate’ to bring the DES forward while practices are considering whether to sign up or opt out.

She said: ‘Any additional costs that are over and above what you are already doing – and it may well be – we will reimburse.’

Practices are also expected to be able to access financial support for absence cover from day one for GPs and practice staff who are off sick with Covid-19, NHS England said.

However, this is dependent on practices providing full sick pay for employees who are off sick with confirmed or suspected coronavirus and full pay for any staff who are shielding.

NHS England said the announcements are ‘provisional principles – with the caveat that they are subject to Government clearance and therefore may change’.

Details will be confirmed ‘shortly’ including reimbursement rates, it added.

Earlier this week, GP practices were given two weeks to set up a new service of weekly virtual ward rounds in care homes. Should it not happen, practices may face regulation to enforce it.

It comes as Pulse revealed that GP practices in some areas have been given a cash boost worth £1 per patient by their CCGs, to help cover the extra costs of managing the Covid-19 pandemic response.

The decisions were taken as details of the Covid support fund touted by NHS England was taking time to materialise, leaving GPs with uncertainty about cash flow.

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