Most GPs yet to commit to network DES just days before deadline

Most GP practices have yet to sign up to the network DES for 2020/21 with just days to go until the 31 May deadline, a GPonline poll suggests.

Most practices have yet to sign up to the network contract DES for this year, the poll suggests (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)
Most practices have yet to sign up to the network contract DES for this year, the poll suggests (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)

Just 36% of GP partners responding to the latest GPonline opinion poll said they had already formally signed up, with only a week to go until the deadline.

A further 32% of the 152 GP partners who took part said they planned to sign up, while 9% said they would not - and the rest were unsure.

Scores of practices across England are understood to have informed their CCGs that they do not intend to take part in the network DES, which governs practices' involvement in primary care networks (PCNs) - a key plank of the five-year plan for the NHS launched last year.

Network DES

BMA executive committee member Dr Farah Jameel said in a recent update that figures from NHS England showed that 74 practices had already told their CCG they had decided against taking part in the network DES.

Overall, NHS England believes 96% of practices have either signed up or plan to do so - but PCN plans have been deeply controversial, with some LMCs warning that the workload involved in specifications within the network DES and the available funding will leave practices out of pocket.

LMCs have warned that for some practices the risks of signing up may outweigh the benefits - despite a huge tranche of primary care funding set to be delivered through networks.

A total of £1.8bn in funding is to be delivered through PCNs by 2023/24 - far more than the £1bn increase in core funding due over the same period.

GP funding

The majority of GPs look likely to sign up, but many will do so with significant reservations and in the knowledge that they can back out in 2021 - or sooner if NHS England decides to change the terms of the network DES.

Some GPs responding to the poll said they were signing up, but without enthusiasm. One said: 'I don't want to sign up but dropping the other network practices in it at this time is not fair - on which I guess the powers that be rely.

'There is little point one practice opting out - it would have to be whole networks, which I hoped would happen but some remain determined to make it work. I've been around longer and suffered too many such reorganisations.'

Another partner said: 'We don't want to sign, neither do the rest of the PCN. But feel we have been left with no option.'

GP workload

Another GP expressing his ambivalence over the deal wrote: 'There is a lot of money attached, so we probably will do it, but there is still that strange combination of ambiguity and micromanagement in which NHS England seems to excel.

'They are like what in the charitable sector are called restricted funds: your hands are tied as to how you spend them and it does not feel like freedom.'

One GP not planning to sign up said simply: 'It undermines general practice. Makes practices liable for other practices and does not provide enough money to do the work.'

Respondents highlighted requirements to support care homes in particular as a key concern. One GP wrote that her practice would sign up, but only because it felt it could not afford to lose out on potential additional funding. 'The main reason is financial - we will be taking a loss of earnings due to COVID-19, however lots of concerns over care home provision for our surgery and being forced to cover the disengaged surgeries as part of our PCN.'

Another said: 'We have not had the full discussions as yet within our PCN. We were not happy to sign up previously and now we have been distracted by COVID-19 work. The new DES specs need looking at as I don't think we should take for granted that we are accepting the need to sign up.'

NHS England warned last week that it would not allow an extension of the deadline for practices to sign up to the DES because GPs had had 'plenty of time' to decide.

The warning came despite LMCs calling it 'astonishing' that NHS England was pressing ahead with PCN development during the coronavirus pandemic.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Workload crisis looms as GPs prepare for biggest flu campaign ever and winter COVID spike

Workload crisis looms as GPs prepare for biggest flu campaign ever and winter COVID spike

GPs face a surge in workload over the coming months as the government rolls out the...

11-day delay for mandatory face coverings will endanger lives, doctors warn

11-day delay for mandatory face coverings will endanger lives, doctors warn

Government plans to make face coverings mandatory in shops from 24 July should be...

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...

GPs warned over prescribing beyond their competence as hospitals shift workload

GPs warned over prescribing beyond their competence as hospitals shift workload

GPs must resist pressure to prescribe medication outside their competence and push...

Government clarifies how GPs should handle COVID-19 test results

Government clarifies how GPs should handle COVID-19 test results

GPs have been reassured they do not need to follow up COVID-19 tests amid confusion...

NHS England to redesign GP appraisal in light of COVID-19 pandemic

NHS England to redesign GP appraisal in light of COVID-19 pandemic

GP appraisals are being redesigned to have a greater focus on wellbeing and reduced...