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RCGP calls for extension to network DES consultation

The RCGP has warned NHS England its network service specifications must be revised so they are ‘less prescriptive, more locally relevant and realistic’ and GPs must be given more time to respond to the consultation.

In a statement from its chair, the RCGP said NHS England’s consultation period was ‘far too short to be meaningful’.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said ‘serious consideration’ needed to be given to developing primary care networks (PCNs) and the services they will offer, and the proposals needed to be ‘well-informed by those working in general practice’.

NHS England released its proposals for five services – out of the seven that PCNs will be required to deliver – on 23 December, with a deadline of 15 January for feedback.

The draft proposals revealed GPs will have to carry out visits to care home patients ‘at least’ every fortnight from this September, as well as conduct structured medication reviews to all ‘identified’ patients who would most likely benefit from the service.

GPs have raised concerns about how the plans will affect practices’ ‘viability’, with one LMC advising practices not to sign this year’s network contract.

The BMA said it will take forward GPs’ concerns into its negotiations with NHS England around the final version of this year’s contract.

Professor Marshall said in the RCGP’s statement that PCNs offered an opportunity increase support to practices by facilitating collaboration and through more funding reaching frontline services.

But he added: ‘But serious consideration needs to be given to how PCNs are developed and how the services they can offer are implemented. This needs to be well-informed by those working in general practice, and the consultation period we have been given to feedback on the proposed specifications is far too short to be meaningful.’

He said: ‘PCNs are still in their infancy and should not be overloaded with work before they have had time to mature or they will fail. Networks must be given the time and space to recruit to the new roles, integrate new staff into established teams and ensure they are properly trained to work in primary care. Only then will PCNs be able to address excessive GP workload and ultimately improve the care that is being provided to patients.

‘PCNs will only succeed if practices are given the scope to do this properly. We propose that NHS England take more time to properly consult with the profession and create service specifications that are less prescriptive, more locally relevant and realistic, particularly in areas with significant deprivation.

‘This will also give PCNs the time they need to develop before being able to offer additional services, as well as trying to alleviate the current workload pressures they are facing.’

Pulse is asking GP partners to complete our own short survey on the network contract DES proposals – with participants being in with the chance of winning £100 of John Lewis vouchers.