Hello again from Penny and the Primary Care Support Team at Sackwell & Binthorpe ICS. Once again, it’s time to reach out to PCNs with our latest newsletter. This issue is packed with even more news, practical tips and helpful information, including the results of our latest poll, further details of our forthcoming collaboration tool, and news of an exciting new scheme from NHS England, which is expected to transform the lunch experience for PCNs and their populations.
SOP: how we’re supporting you
We’ve had a lot of messages following our letter about the new Standard Operating Procedure, which some of you seem to have misunderstood.
When we appeared to say in our previous letter that we want you to stop all face-to-face appointments with immediate effect, what we meant was that it’s vital that patients who want a face-to-face appointment should be able to demand one immediately.
We’re grateful to the Mail on Sunday and Matt Hancock’s office for pointing out that this could have been made clearer, and we hope our latest letter removes any remaining doubt.
I want to reassure you all of us working in the commissioning strategy and primary care support directorate really sympathise with the strain primary care has been under for the past year. Not only do we regularly acknowledge your hard work, commitment and sacrifice in our newsletters, we are also taking more practical steps than ever to help. These include:
- Our popular webinar series Easy Steps to Resilience – completing all 17 modules qualifies participants for a Compassionate Coping Certificate and a #StayStrong lapel depicting smiley faces in a range of ethnicities. We’ve even made the course available at evenings and weekends, to make it easier for you to develop coping strategies outside work hours. Well done to practice manager Sandra Stokes for being the first person to complete the course. (I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing Sandra a speedy recovery after her recent breakdown.)
- Our bite-size Lighten the Load guides have also gone down well – hundreds of pages of tips on how to ‘work smarter’ culminating in a compulsory 10-page ‘fun quiz’ to help you put your new learning into practice. The results of the questionnaire will also help me and my team to come up with great new support materials, courses, guides and surveys to help you reduce workload still further.
- New ‘Be Grateful’ posters and leaflets for reception areas explain how the new SOP works and remind patients to do their bit to reduce overcrowding and maintain social distancing. We’re also refreshing our handy guide to conflict resolution for reception teams, which has been rebranded as the Constructive Conversations toolkit.
Thank you to everyone who took the trouble to respond to our poll asking what you think of the newsletter. An overwhelming 22% of you thought it was ‘quite useful’ or ‘fairly useful’. We were delighted to receive so many suggestions about how to improve it. One came from Ravi, a GP and Clinical Director from the north-west, who pointed out that the ‘unsubscribe’ function is broken and requested that we fix it urgently. Don’t worry, Ravi, NHS Digital is on the case!
In the last newsletter we promised you more information about our Collaborating to Prepare to Collaborate programme. My team is working to develop a self-assessment tool to test your collaborability. The Excel-based Collaboration Matrix identifies the Domains of Collaboration that PCN leaders are expected to work towards, the performance assessment methodology used by the ICS, and the contractual sanctions for non-compliance.
The Matrix is currently being socialised with selected PCN colleagues. We can’t wait to share the final version with you.
Further details are emerging of the new ARRS initiative. Not to be confused with the similarly named scheme for onboarding PCN staff, the Alternative Rolls and Sandwiches Scheme links part of every PCN’s income to its ability to provide a diverse and healthy range of rolls, sandwiches and wraps for staff. NHS England is also looking at how the scheme could be extended to patients awaiting face-to-face appointments.
Final details of the new DES are still being ironed out, but there have been a number of important breakthroughs in discussions between NHS England and the BMA, including clarity about the contractual levers to ensure adequate provision of vegan and gluten free alternatives.
A major sticking point over the name ‘club sandwich’, which had been criticised as insufficiently inclusive, has been resolved. From now on this will be known as the ‘network sandwich’.
The BMA continues to argue that the current scheme is too prescriptive. In an open letter to primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani, the BMA wrote: ‘We shouldn’t be telling practices what fillings to have. This should be a matter for local determination by PCNs working with their LMCs.’ Nikki has made it clear that while she supports the idea of some freedoms for PCNs to design sandwiches around the needs of staff and local populations, ‘we can’t have a situation of uncontrolled spread’.
In the next issue we’ll publish an explainer about the Sackwell & Binthorpe ICS as well as the usual round-up of exciting news about what’s in store for your PCN.
Penny Stint is primary care enablement lead at the Sackwell & Binthorpe ICS. As told to Julian Patterson