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Exclusive PCNs will not be scrapped despite BMA policy, NHS England’s head of primary care has said.
In an exclusive interview with Pulse, national director of primary and community care services Dr Amanda Doyle said there was ‘absolutely no risk to PCNs’.
She also said that PCNs should feel confident to continue recruiting staff under the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) without worries funding could be withdrawn.
And in a recent a ‘call to action’ document setting out points for contract negotiations (issued on 23 June) the BMA GPC called for a unified contract folding in all QOF, IIF and PCN DES funding.
But Dr Doyle told Pulse: ‘The funding for the additional roles scheme will be rolled forward, it will be recurrent, there is absolutely no risk to PCNs.
‘They should recruit using that funding this year. And they will have the money, it will come in future years for them to pay their staff.
‘There’s no concern at all that money will suddenly be withdrawn and that practices will be left with responsibilities.’
Dr Doyle also clarified that PCNs would not be replaced by integrated neighbourhood teams (INTs), a structure first mentioned in the Next Steps for Integrating Primary Care: Fuller Stocktake. The document, which was published in May last year, has since been accepted as the direction of travel by both NHS England and ICSs.
Dr Doyle explained: ‘I think [INTs] are something completely different. At the moment, an INT describes the way all the teams offering services to a defined community in a neighbourhood work together to make that as seamless as possible.
‘I think PCNs are the general practice component of those INTs, but there are community services, there are end-of-life services and social care services, mental health services and a whole range of other teams who need to work in an integrated way with PCNs and general practice to deliver seamless services to our population.’
Asked whether the GP contract would be used as a means of implementing the Fuller stocktake, she said that the document was a ‘vision, not a plan’ which would not ‘necessarily’ be implemented ‘just via a contract’.
Dr Doyle also said there was ‘no plan at the moment to remove urgent services from primary care, which the stocktake had indicated, but that there could be benefits to PCNs managing these demands differently.
She told Pulse: ‘That’s talking about a vision in which the benefits of having PCNs to operate at a slightly higher scale might help deal with surges in demand or same-day demand. But there’s no plan at the moment to remove urgent services from primary care.’
The Fuller Stocktake stated that INTs need to evolve from PCNs, be rooted in a sense of shared ownership for improving the health and wellbeing of the population and build relationships and trust between primary care, other system partners and communities and have a blended generalist and specialist workforce drawn from all sectors.
INTs are currently running in Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Suffolk and Leicestershire, with staff drawn from social care, mental health and the voluntary sector working together in a locally devised way. Elsewhere, plans are in varying states, with many PCN leaders still defining what an INT is.