BMA urges GPs to raise network DES concerns as contract talks loom

The BMA has urged GPs to 'make their frustrations explicitly known' over draft specifications for the network DES as it continues to review doctors' feedback.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)

GP leaders have reiterated that the five national service specifications published by NHS England before Christmas remain in draft form and are ‘subject to negotiations’.

The BMA has stressed the importance of clinical directors, GPs and primary care networks (PCNs) feeding into the consultation and have sought to reassure doctors that they are hearing the concerns of the profession ‘loud and clear’.

PCNs have until Wednesday 15 January to submit feedback to the consultation, which asks doctors which service requirements they find confusing and asks how they can be helped to implement them.

But the draft specifications have been met by widespread dissatisfaction from GPs, with concerns that the plans create workload ‘vastly in excess of what is credible’. The RCGP today called on NHS England to 'take more time to properly consult with the profession' - warning that overloading PCNs could drive them to fail.

GP contract negotiations

Negotiations between the BMA and NHS England are due to take place after the consultation but no detail has been made public on the timetable for meetings, or whether a deadline has been set for the publication of the final DES specifications.

Earlier this week, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the association was aware of frustration around the draft document and urged doctors to provide feedback through the consultation process.

'While the content of negotiations is confidential, the profession should rest assured that we are listening to doctors on the ground, reviewing their feedback and this will form the basis of talks with NHS England to ensure that the specifications are fair and appropriate before they are agreed,' Dr Vautrey said.

'In turn, we would urge as many clinical directors, GPs, practices and LMCs as possible to raise concerns directly with NHSE to ensure their voices are heard.'

Meanwhile, NHS England's medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani has urged staff across general practice to take part in the consultation process.

Dr Kanani also hosted a Twitter discussion on Tuesday night, allowing those involved with PCNs to share their thoughts on each of the five draft service specifications in detail, an approach that has been praised and appreciated by many.

Heavy GP workload

But doctors have voiced deep concerns over a lack of separate funding to carry out additional duties, such as fortnightly care home visits required in the draft plans.

Some senior GPs, including leaders of mature networks such as the 2018 winners of the NAPC Primary Care Home of the Year, have threatened to pull out of the PCN DES unless it is altered ‘radically’.

The importance of the consultation has been highlighted by a number of GPs, with some optimistic about the chances of the draft requirements being changed to better serve practices. This is despite Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMC advising practices this week not to sign up to the network DES in 2020.

Vice chair of Nottinghamshire LMC Dr Carter Singh said he was ‘hopeful’ the NHS England team would be able to use feedback to improve patient care and quality in general practice.

General practice clinical pharmacist Daniel Chalmers said he was grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide feedback on the PCN DES and hoped it translated into positive changes.

An NHS spokesperson said last week: 'We published the draft service specifications, aimed at stabilising general practice and reducing health inequalities, to provide the opportunity to feedback views through the survey. GPs are getting significant extra funding through their agreed multi-year contract and this feedback will shape the final agreement with the BMA GP committee.'

The draft specifications are currently out for consultation, which closes on 15 January. Click here for full details on how to respond.

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