A petition to allow Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) funding to be used to employ GPs and practice nurses has gathered almost 2,000 signatures.
The campaign, started by locum GP Dr Stephen Katona and supported by the Doctors’ Association UK, is arguing GP practices should be able to use the money to pay for practice nurses, salaried and locum GPs – all of whom are currently excluded from the ARRS scheme.
Under the ARRS, primary care networks in England are given funding to hire pharmacists, physiotherapists, physician assistants and advanced nurse practitioners among other professionals.
It comes as the Government refused to say whether it has any plans for GPs to be included in the scheme going forward.
The petition said: ‘The Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) has made available to GP practices £1,412 million in 2023/24 to employ people in 17 new roles.
‘We would like GP practices to also be able to use this money to pay for practice nurses, salaried GPs and locum GPs, who are currently excluded from ARRS.
‘GP practices should be allowed to use ARRS funding to employ experienced practice nurses and GPs to help provide the best possible care for their patients.
‘We believe excluding these professions from ARRS funding is contributing to their shortage. Some practices that are short of funds are relying on ARRS funded roles.’
If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the Government will respond to it, and it will be considered for debate in Parliament should it reach 100,000 signatures.
Doctors’ Association UK GP spokesperson Dr Steve Taylor told Pulse: ‘The problem for general practice is poor funding, with limited resources for retaining or recruiting much needed GPs and practice nurses.
‘NHS England-directed ARRS funding of additional roles via PCNs does not include the flexibility to employ doctors or nurses, which in many cases are more needed.
‘It is essential that any extra primary care funding is used in staffing areas of most need, not just funding additional roles, whilst excluding GPs and practice nurses.’
Meanwhile, the Government failed to commit to a direction on the topic when asked in writing by a fellow MP.
At the end of December, Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell asked whether the Department of Health and Social Care plans to include GPs in ARRS, to which primary care minister Andrea Leadsom said that changes to the scheme ‘are made as part of wider changes to the GP contract’.
She added: ‘As per the commitment set out in changes to the GP Contract in 2023/24, we have engaged the profession, patients, integrated care systems, and other key stakeholders over the summer via an expert advisory group, to inform the future general practitioner contract.’
In an exclusive interview with Pulse, NHS England primary care director Dr Amanda Doyle confirmed that ARRS funding will be recurrent, and that ‘there is absolutely no risk to PCNs’ and they should be using that funding to recruit staff.