Half of GP partners say primary care networks will increase workload

Half of GP partners think primary care networks (PCNs) will increase workload for practices amid fears of rising bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy fears (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)
Bureaucracy fears (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)

Just 6% of the 230 GP partners taking part in GPonline’s latest survey thought GP workload would decrease under PCNs, while 25% expected no change.

Almost one in two (48%) said they thought workload would increase. The remaining 21% said they didn’t know what impact PCNs would have.

Nearly all (97%) GP partners taking part in the poll said their practice was planning to join a PCN. Financial incentives to do so are significant, with £1.8bn in funding set to be delivered through networks over the next five years and enhanced services expected to be awarded at PCN level.

Meanwhile, all patients will have to be covered by a PCN by July this year - even if their practice chooses not to join one.

Bureacracy

But one partner taking part in the survey said there had so far been ‘a lot of bureaucratic and admin work’ involved in PCNs which was ‘taking GPs out of core work for numerous meetings’.

A second partner wrote: ‘Yet more meetings and work. They are forcing us to do additional hours and as the last partner standing I can't even find a doctor for every day.’

Several respondents voiced concern that the ‘extra workload’ brought about by PCNs meant that they were ‘not worth it’ - despite promises of more funding and more staff. One described the PCN process as 'bureacracy for bureacracy's sake'.

‘I already have to attend a meeting in my free time because there's no one else to cover the surgery,’ another GP said. ‘There's never remuneration for attending these meetings or for the time taken with all the reading. It's just another level of administration and increasing complexity.’

Long-term benefits

However, some partners were positive about PCNs - with many saying they were a ‘good idea’ and others saying they had potential ‘so long as [they] are well-led’.

One commented that, although the creation of PCNs meant a lot of work at present, they would ‘eventually reduce workload in the longer term’.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These findings are understandable as we are in the very early stages of setting up PCNs. Once PCNs become established and effective, with the planned additional workforce starting to work in practices, the benefits of workload reduction should be evident.’

Other findings from GPonline’s survey included a third of partners, and a similar proportion of GPs involved in setting up a PCN, saying their CCG tried to influence which practices joined forces - despite the BMA insisting the process be practice-led.

GPC executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told GPonline: ‘Ourselves and NHS England have been clear that it is down to practices to lead in the formation and running of PCNs. All practices that want to join PCNs should be supported by CCGs, working with the LMCs to ensure the networks are offering the best for patients, practices and staff across the area.’

All GP practices across England are expected to join a PCN - which are designed to bring practices together across patient populations of around 30,000 to 50,000 patients - by July. The deadline for submitting applications to form the networks passed this week.

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