Flexibility over PCN recruitment cash extended in bid to boost staff this year

NHS chiefs have added 'nurse associates' to the list of roles PCNs can hire this year through the £430m additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) and offered greater flexibility on spending.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In a letter to GPs and primary care networks (PCNs) this week, NHS England director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani revealed that the list of staff that can be brought in through the ARRS scheme would be widened from October.

The list of roles that can be brought in through the additional roles scheme was expanded as part of the 2020/21 GP contract deal announced earlier this year - and the further expansion, along with new flexibility on spending is intended to help networks make use of available funding following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter says: 'The number of eligible roles expanded in April from two to nine, with further expansion planned in 2021/22 as set out in chapter 1 of the ppdate to the GP Contract 2020/21. To provide additional flexibility to PCNs now, an additional role will be added 1 October 2020. With agreement of the chief nursing officer, nursing associates will be added.'

The ARRS scheme aims to bring in an average of 7-8 new full-time equivalent staff to support primary care - and has been touted by NHS England as part of the solution to the ongoing GP workforce crisis.

Primary care networks

However, GPonline reported this week that GPs leading many networks fear the profession will lose out on funding available through the scheme because the profession simply lacks the capacity to manage recruitment alongside delivering routine GP services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PCN clinical directors have also warned that in some areas not enough staff in roles eligible for ARRS funding exist - with practices forced to dip into their own pockets to top up salary offers in a bid to attract new recruits.

The letter from Dr Kanani and primary care strategy director Ed Waller says: 'Every CCG has a responsibility to help all their PCNs recruit, supporting them to use their allocation of funding and get their share of the additional roles in place.

'This will minimise the proportion of the available £430m which PCNs will not be able to draw down and will be lost to general practice.'

The letter adds: 'Where recruitment has been delayed due to the initial pandemic response, PCNs are entitled to "overrecruit" for the final 6-9 months of the year (i.e. beyond the average 7-8 staff) in order to use their full funding allocation. With the ARRS budget significantly increasing again in 2021/22, CCGs should help all their PCNs be in the strongest possible position to make best of use next year’s sum.'

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