GPs have been urged to sign up to the network contract DES to confirm they will remain involved with primary care networks (PCNs) and to ensure that 'there is no interruption in PCN payments'.
A total of £1.8bn in funding for primary care is set to be delivered through the network DES over the course of the five-year GP contract deal that began from April 2019 - almost twice the increase delivered through the core deal.
But major concerns remain over the PCN programme despite significant concessions that persuaded the BMA's GP committee to vote through a package of measures for the 2020/21 financial year.
LMCs have urged practices to think carefully about whether to sign up to the DES - raising concerns over its impact on funding and workload - and some GPs have asked for more time to decide because the COVID-19 pandemic has left them unable to consider PCN work.
NHS England director for primary care strategy Ed Waller told practices last week that they will not be granted an extension - saying the majority had already made a decision.
He said: 'The deadline this time given that people have been working in PCNs for a year, almost universally, was to the end of May - and we thought that was plenty of time for people to make the decision about whether they wish to carry on working in their network.
'We know that a large majority of practices in most areas have already made that "opt in" decision to sign up for the DES and more are doing so every day.'
Primary care networks
He added: 'We're not convinced that there is a reason that people need more time or that more time will help people make a different decision. Our general view is that we want to make sure people benefit from the funding in the DES, and the stability of continuing to work in their network.'
Clinical directors told GPonline in March that they were ‘absolutely consumed with service provision and locality planning’ during the pandemic and had found little time to concentrate on PCN work, such as additional roles recruitment. The DES was recently updated to defer start dates for service specifications within it until October because of the pandemic.
Ahead of the 31 May deadline, the NHS Confederation's PCN Network has encouraged practices to sign up to the DES, arguing practices will ‘lose access to several sources of funding’ if they opt out.
It said the DES will allow practices to fund and build a 'diverse workforce' - and revealed it had received assurances that any changes to the contract would be 'negotiated through the BMA'.
A letter from the PCN Network said: 'Opting out of the DES could risk general practice, through PCNs, losing influence within the system and nationally as we move towards a more integrated health and care system.
'We believe that this is the time for general practice, and primary care, to grasp the opportunities provided through the DES to drive significant change and service improvement in response to the specific needs of its own local population.'