GP contract to demand regional primary care workforce plans

A GP contract update for England will require primary care network (PCN) clinical directors to help draw up regional plans to stabilise the primary care workforce.

GP workforce (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)
GP workforce (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)

Board papers published by NHS England reveal that a 'forthcoming national GP contract update' will set out requirements for sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), integrated care systems (ICSs) and CCGs to develop primary care workforce plans at STP/ICS level.

The plans, which will consider 'local multi-disciplinary workforce needs', will be developed jointly with clinical directors from England's 1,250 PCNs.

NHS England says the plans will focus on how 'additional roles' staff brought in through networks will be used, and on measures to maximise recruitment and retention of GP trainees, experienced GPs and primary care nursing staff.

GP contract

The workforce proposals come as GP leaders prepare to vote on a revamped GMS contract package just three weeks after rejecting a contract deal NHS England had hoped to implement from April.

A BMA GP committee meeting scheduled for 6 February will consider fresh contract proposals - including a new draft of the controversial network DES. Draft plans put out for consultation from late December were widely criticised by the profession and left the future of PCNs in doubt.

NHS England and Improvement board papers show that updates to the contract will include arrangements for STP/ICS-level primary care workforce plans aimed at identifying ‘multidisciplinary workforce needs’.

The plans must set out how additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) staff will be ‘fully used’ - with firm plans for 2020/21 and indicative plans for subsequent years required. CCGs will be required to ‘actively support’ PCNs unable to recruit to additional roles by backing advertising drives, development of 'rotational posts' and working with higher education organisations.

NHS workforce

The plans should be designed 'specifically to retain as many GP trainees as possible’ within regions once they complete training and include an 'action plan to maximise the retention of experienced staff’, designed to target areas with the most significant workforce gaps. Targeted action to retain ‘as many general practice nurses as possible’ will also be required.

GPonline reported last month that PCNs were set to miss out on millions of pounds in funding due to difficulties around recruiting additional roles staff.

Under the ARRS, PCNs have been supported to recruit two staff in 2019/20 - with 70% reimbursement for the cost of a clinical pharmacist and 100% for a social prescribing link worker. But a BMA survey of 213 clinical directors showed that 26% of PCNs had not received reimbursement for either of these roles between October and November.

Dr Vautrey said last month: ‘We know that it's challenging, we know that recruiting in some parts of the country is going to be easier than in others. But we hope that CCGs can work with their networks to provide recruitment support and maybe, where it is really difficult to recruit, support from other healthcare providers.'

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