GPs backed with £120m COVID-19 fund for next six months

GP practices will be supported with an extra £120m over the next six months through an expansion of the COVID-19 support fund unveiled by NHS England.

In a letter to GPs NHS England said that the funding - which is ring fenced for general practice - would ‘support the expansion of capacity’ in general practice between 1 April and 30 September.

£30m will be available per month in April and May, £20m per month in June and July and £10m in each of August and September. NHS England has made clear the funding is non-recurrent and 'should not be used to fund commitments running beyond' September.

GP leaders warned earlier this month that COVID-19 support funding for general practice must be increased and extended beyond April to guarantee patients could access normal services.

COVID-19 funding

NHS systems have also been told to prioritise spending on PCNs committed to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service (including for cohorts 10-12) whose capacity requirements are greater.

NHS England director of primary care Ed Waller and primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said in the letter that the funding should be used to ‘make further progress’ on seven priorities identified alongside a first wave of £150m in COVID-19 support funding announced last November.

This included making inroads into the backlog of care triggered by the pandemic, providing backfill for staff absences and increasing GP numbers and capacity.

NHS England said that the work of general practice was ‘greatly valued and appreciated’.

Vaccination campaign

The letter said: ‘Thank you for the work you have done, and continue to do, to support the response to the pandemic, including the successful delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme alongside wider patient care.

‘To provide further support to general practice at this critical moment, we are extending the General Practice Covid Capacity Expansion Fund for the period from 1 April to 30 September 2021.

‘£120m of revenue funding will be allocated to systems, ringfenced exclusively for general practice, to support the expansion of capacity until the end of September. Monthly allocations will be £30m in April and May, £20m in each of June and July and reach £10m in August and September.’

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey, said: 'In the face of a huge backlog of care, and the longer-term impact of the pandemic now being felt, we hope that this extra funding will go some way to giving practices the capacity and flexibility they need to continue vaccinating people alongside this vital care, if they wish to do so.

Supporting PCNs

'Other practices, who are not taking part in the campaign will also be able to access some funding too to help their response to the challenges they face as we move into the latest phase of the pandemic.'

He added: 'While GPs and their teams, as well as colleagues in other settings, are doing an excellent job vaccinating record numbers of people, the programme still has a long way to go to reach everyone, and therefore we will continue to ask that practices and PCNs are fully supported to allow them to taking such a leading role in the campaign.”

Last week NHS England confirmed that funding for PCN clinical directors had been extended until the end of June - recognising the expanded role they have played during the pandemic.

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