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Some areas will struggle to recruit extra PCN staff, admits NHS England

Some areas across the country will struggle to recruit the 20,000 additional primary care staff, NHS England has said. 

Speaking at the NAPC conference yesterday in Birmingham, NHS England director of primary care and system transformation Dominic Hardy admitted that it will be a ‘real challenge’ to employ 22,000 extra practice staff in some parts of England. 

Under the new network contract DES, funding will be unlocked to employ 22,000 additional practice staff – including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

NHS England has guaranteed to cover 70% of the costs for pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics and physician associates and 100% for social prescribers.

In a Q&A on the current key issues in primary care, a member of the audience expressed concerns over the recruitment of the extra staff for the networks, including pharmacists and physios.

She asked Mr Hardy whether NHS England will allow ‘any relaxation of those additional roles to be actually able to employ additional roles’.

In response, Mr Hardy recognised that some areas, such as the south west, will face ‘real challenges’ to recruit further staff. 

He said: ‘I don’t know. In the south west in particular I know we’ve got real challenges in the availability of some of the staff in those groups. What I think we’re doing next year is saying that there’s flexibility to recruit between the roles that will be part of the DES for 2020 one in the same level for the four years.

‘I don’t think it’s likely, if I’m completely honest, that we’re going to relax that entirely at the same level of DES for the coming years for them understaffed groups.’

He added: ‘I think there are going to be things that we’re going to have to do for parts of the country like yours where the supply of clinical pharmacists, for example, I know it’s a massive challenge.

‘We need to help our teams, locally and regionally, and get on board with HEE and the universities and think about how we are going to generate the supply because we know we’re going to be in this position for years and years to come and I completely agree that’s just unacceptable.’

Also speaking at the conference, and echoing Mr Hardy’s comments, BMA GP committee member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni called the target of getting an extra 20,000 staff ‘ambitious’.

GP leaders have previously expressed concerns that some networks – particularly those in deprived areas – might struggle to cover the remaining 30% of funding for some of the additional roles

In June, NHS Clinical Commissioners told Pulse that some of its members ‘are concerned’ their core funding is not enough to deliver the £1.50 per patient as mandated in the five-year GP contract.

Meanwhile, NHS England recently revealed that networks who will complete the seven national service requirements ‘further’ and ‘faster’ will be offered additional funding