A scheme that offers £20,000 to healthcare professionals taking up a GP partnership role has been extended to include physician associates, NHS England has said.
The golden handshake-style New to Partnership scheme was launched in July last year and also offers up to £3,000 as a training fund to support staff to transition to practice partnership.
The inclusion of physician associates brings the number of eligible professions to 12, with GPs, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, physios, paramedics, midwives, dietitians, podiatrists, occupational therapists, and mental health practitioners also able to apply.
In a primary care bulletin last week (2 March), NHS England said: ‘From yesterday (1 March 2021) physician associates are included in the list of health care professionals eligible to apply to the New to Partnership payment scheme.’
According to NHS England, physician associates on the Physician Associate Voluntary Register can now apply, but registration with their professional body ‘will be required at a later date once this in place’.
This comes after practice managers sent an open letter to NHS England and Matt Hancock calling for their immediate inclusion in the scheme after it opened to applications from clinical staff only last July.
At the time, NHS England said it was ‘working on a plan’ for practice managers to be included but did not provide a timescale for when this would take place.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Management in Practice last week: ‘The scheme has been open to registered healthcare professionals since it began last year, and we’ve now expanded it so physician associates are also eligible to participate in the initiative.
‘Practice managers are a very important and highly valued part of general practice teams, and we continue to consider more ways to support them.’
In an e-bulletin, the BMA also spoke out in support of the scheme being extended to include practice managers.
It said: ‘This addition [of physician associates] brings this group of healthcare workers into the scheme alongside others who are nationally regulated. However we also believe that many practices want to and would benefit from making their practice manager a partner in the practice, and so we continue to push for practice managers to be involved in this scheme.’
A BMA spokesperson confirmed that the organisation is currently working with NHS England ‘to find the best way’ of including practice managers in the scheme.
Kay Keane, practice manager at Alvanley Family Practice and one of the co-founders of the Institute for General Practice Management (IGPM), said: ‘The IGPM have been discussing the New to Partnership scheme with the GPC, BMA and NHS England, we all recognise that it is imperative that managers in [general] practice are able to join the scheme.
‘The reason that physician associates were added before practice managers is because they already have a voluntary registration system that could be used to manage applications to the scheme. Now that The IGPM are operating a registration system we can help to deal with that issue.’
She added that the second issue is ‘tied up in final pay controls and the extra charge the practice may face at the point of retirement of a practice manager partner’ – but added this is ‘being ironed out’.
‘All in all, although we were disappointed not to be next, we understand the reasons. We are assured it won’t be long until practice managers are part of the New to Partnership Scheme,’ Ms Keane added.
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice