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Q&A: The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund

What is it?

A £50 million pot of money to test new ways of improving access to general practice and innovative approaches to providing primary care services.

David Cameron announced the scheme on 13 October 2013, but said NHS England had been asked to lead on selection and management of the pilots.

What do practices have to do?

Practices – separately or in collaborations – were encouraged to submit bids for funding which would be used to establish and pilot schemes for improving access, such as extended hours, seven day working or innovative ways of using technology.

What did bids have to demonstrate?

• Public engagement – how the pilot was tailored to local community priorities on access.

• Sustainability – how the schemes would be sustained after the first year of pilot funding.

• Scale and ambition – practices were encouraged to collaborate so pilots could benefit populations of 40,000 or more.

• ‘Link to local strategy’ – making general practice the lead on coordinating out of hospital care.

• Capacity for rapid implementation – pilots were due to commence on 1 April and should be able to deliver patient benefits within a year.

• Demonstrate how it would be monitored and evaluated.

When was the deadline for bids?

The deadline was 14 February 2013

How many bids were received?

Pulse learnt that around 250 were received, but NHS England has delayed the announcement of succesful bids which was due at the end of March.

Examples of potential bids?

Details of bids have been sketchy, but Pulse reported that one bid was for £31.6m for a ‘never full’ practice model. Under this scheme, the practices running the model will never turn a patient away, guaranteeing them a same day appointment within core hours, and reduce the number of patients turning to A&E.

If this bid were successful, it would roll out the model – which is currently being used by former DH adviser and president of the National Association of Primary Care Dr James Kingsland’s practice in the Wirral, Merseyside – to an as yet unknown number of practices across the UK covering 40,000 patients. It would also allow the scheme to run seven days a week.

Bids were also received from practices in Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees, which will look to extend opening times beyond core hours.

Nottingham City CCG has submitted a joint bid on behalf of their member practices, alongside bids from other Derbyshire practices. It said this does not include a seven-day 8am-8pm opening because the CCG was already set to fund a separate one-year pilot scheme to extend opening hours in local GP practices.