NHS England to fund local banks of GPs working flexibly

NHS England is to provide local health systems with £120,000 each to set up new 'flexible pools' of locum and salaried GPs to support practices.

(Photo: sturti/Getty Images)
(Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

GPs employed under the scheme will be paid according to local rates of pay, while locums who obtain work via the pool should be paid up to a maximum of £77.57 per hour or £323.21 per session, NHS England has said.

Local health systems have been asked to develop their pools immediately.

Funding for the scheme will come from the additional £150m that NHS England announced in November to support practices through this winter as they deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

This money is only available until the end of March 2021, however guidance on how the scheme will work, published this week, suggests the pools will continue after this. Local health systems have been asked to plan for how they could maintain a 'pool arrangement next year and possibly beyond' with a 'smaller budget'.

Additional staff

The guidance says that the pools will 'support groups of PCNs – most likely at CCG or place footprint - to increase capacity in general practice and create a new offer for local GPs wanting to work flexibly'.

Funding could be used to employ GPs on a flexible, fixed term basis until the end of March 2021, or to create a 'matching service' that would link locum GPs to practices, or both.

'Systems are encouraged to use their funding to develop a set of virtual pools which could both employ GPs with flexible contracts, and engage local GPs who can deliver additional sessions; and connect them with practices holding vacant shifts,' the guidance says. 'Local agreement will need to be made in relation to who hosts the pool and therefore holds the contracts with the GPs, and other associated liabilities.'

NHS England said that at the start linking GPs in the pool with practices may need to be a manual process, but it expects local systems to develop a digital solution, such as an app, 'to match and deploy GPs to shifts'.

Peer support

The guidance also suggests that the pools should provide the GPs who work for them with networking and peer support opportunities.

'Support can be particularly important when working in a flexible or mobile way,' the guidance says. 'This aspect can be delivered in a remote way to respect social distancing.'

NHS England has produced a template contract for GPs working in the pool and a list of approved digital suppliers to help local health leaders establish their system. The template contract is designed for use until the end of March 2021, after which any salaried GPs should be employed using the BMA's salaried GP model contract.

The idea of banks of GPs working across STP or integrated care system areas was set out in the NHS People Plan published in July this year.

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