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Two new roles – GP assistants and digital transformation leads – will be added to the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) next month.
This forms part of the Government’s wide-ranging plan to improve patient access published yesterday.
The plan said the Government would be ‘freeing up funding rules’ to widen the types of staff that work in general practice, adding that it expected this would ‘increase the number of appointments for patients by over one million’.
A press release ahead of the plan’s publication had suggested advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) would also be added to the ARRS. However, the Department of Health and Social Care told Pulse just two new roles would be added from October, with ANPs to be added at an unspecified later date.
The exact job descriptions for GP assistants and digital transformation leads remain unclear.
According to Health Education England’s website, GP assistants are intended to provide a support role, specifically aimed at reducing the administrative burden, and in some areas assisting basic clinical duties.
GPs have called for more flexibility for PCNs regarding how they spend ARRS money, with up to 40% of funding going unspent in each of the first two years of the scheme.
Clinical directors have previously said the lack of flexibility means they cannot recruit the staff they need.
And the Fuller stocktake, published in May, had called for simplified ARRS guidance and ‘further flexibilities’ to support short-term recruitment.
NHS Confederation director of primary care Ruth Rankine said: ‘Healthcare leaders are awaiting the detail behind the Secretary of State’s statement and it is still unclear where the additional funding will come from.
‘Current funding for ARRS has not been uplifted to reflect the recent pay awards, so whilst the pay limits may change the total ARRS funding pot has not.’
Ms Rankine added that the health secretary’s promised additional support is welcome, but that the plan lacks detail.
She said: ‘We welcome all additional support for primary care, including community pharmacies, to help manage the current pressures. However, as yet, there is insufficient detail to truly assess the impact this will have this winter.
‘What we do know is that it takes time to recruit and train for new workforce roles, therefore chances of this coming in time to make much difference are minimal.’
The new plan also reiterated an intention to expand the number of mental health practitioners (MHPs) in primary care.
Updates made earlier this year to the 2022/23 Network DES ensured that PCNs would be able to deploy twice as many adult mental health practitioners, with the approval of their provider.
Also as part of the plan, Dr Coffey pledged to ‘correct’ GP pension rules around inflation so that GPs are not taxed unnecessarily.
And data on how many appointments each GP practice is offering, alongside appointment waiting times, will be published starting from November this year.