As part of its operational plans for 2019/20 NHS England has instructed CCGs to spend £1.50 per patient each year to ‘develop and maintain’ primary care networks, ‘so that the target of 100% coverage is achieved as soon as is possible and by 30 June 2019 at the latest’.
The plans adds: ‘This investment should be planned for recurrently and needs to be provided in cash rather than in kind. More guidance on the future direction for primary care networks will be available soon.’
The NHS long-term plan, published earlier this month, revealed that GP practices will be expected to sign ‘network contracts’ that will pool funding and link them with other practices and community services across patient populations of between 30,000 and 50,000.
The contracts will work as ‘an extension of [practices’] current contract', the plan said, although there was no mention about when they would be introduced.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey confirmed to GPonline earlier this month that the new contracts were part of current negotiations on the GP contract. He suggested that the network deal would not be obligatory.
'Essentially this will be a contract that builds on practices' current contract and enables them to work across a network of 30-50,000 patients. The network contract is the vehicle to enable practices to do this in a supportive way,’ Dr Vautrey said.
‘We would hope that once we have agreed the changes practices would want to do it.'
The GP partnership review, which was also published this month, backed primary care networks as a way to help preserve the GP partnership model. It suggested that networks should be set up in a way that helps make constituent practices more sustainable and enables GP partners to address workload.
The partnership review also suggested that primary care networks should partner with, or become, training hubs to ensure the delivery of training and education in primary care for GPs and other staff.