NHS England will 'significantly rework' draft PCN plans, officials confirm

NHS England is drawing up ‘a significantly reworked set of service specifications’ for primary care networks (PCNs), officials have confirmed, just weeks after controversial draft plans left the future of networks in doubt.

NHS plans rethink (Photo: Getty Images)
NHS plans rethink (Photo: Getty Images)

A summary of feedback received during a three-week consultation on the draft network DES that closed on 15 January shows that NHS England received more than 4,000 responses.

During the consultation period, GPonline reported on widespread criticism of the plans - with doctors warning that requirements placed on PCNs would leave practices facing six-figure annual costs and significant extra workload.

In NHS England's summary of responses, officials admit the 'scale and feedback received' during the consultation demanded 'a clear response'. The summary says: 'Our goal is to provide PCNs with certainty and confidence about their future as rapidly as possible, as part of the process for agreeing the GP contract with the BMA GP committee'.

Primary care networks

GP leaders are expected to vote next week on contract changes for April 2020 - just weeks after rejecting a package of proposed changes including a version of the network DES specifications.

Senior GPs are set to hold an emergency conference once negotiations are complete between the BMA and NHS England to consider contract changes, because of the depth of GPs' concern over the future of PCNs.

NHS England has confirmed that the reworked DES service specifications will be delivered in the form of an updated overall contract package - but has not said when this will be ready.

Officials said they were 'grateful for all the feedback received', and for the 'significant amount of work and time' taken by PCNs, GPs, LMCs and many others to provide clear and full feedback.

NHS consultation

The consultation, which ran from 23 December 2019 to 15 January this year, received 4,048 responses, with NHS England receiving over 200 'direct feedback emails'.

The summary says: 'The engagement feedback has already been informing discussions about the final contract deal, with both NHS England and Improvement and the BMA GP committee working to address the core concerns raised in a way that continues to respect the existing five-year deal, sustains general practice, and secures improvements for patients.

'Several clear and consistent messages' came from general practice and the wider health and care system through the consultation, including workforce implications and 'the investment general practice was being asked to make in new workforce roles.'

Respondents raised concerns over the impact of metrics included in the specifications and called for more qualitative and outcome-based measures.

Calls for clarification around how PCNs will be supported by CCGs and integrated care systems also featured heavily.

GP contract

'Many respondents' criticised plans for fortnightly GP visits to care home patients, the summary confirms, warning that practices simply lack the capacity to deliver the proposed service - and highlighting concerns around huge regional variation in workload required and no funding to support this.

Director of the newly-launched NHS Confederation PCN network Ruth Rankine, said: 'We are pleased that NHS England and Improvement has reaffirmed its commitment to PCNs and the desire to see them succeed. It is absolutely right that they seek to address the significant concerns raised by the NHS Confederation on behalf of PCN clinical directors.

'The revised GP contract has to give clinical directors the time, funding and support they need to get their PCNs off the ground, which means being realistic about the pace and scale of what is being asked of them.'

NHS primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘We wanted feedback and we got plenty… You’ve given us a clear message - the draft specifications need to change before they are finalised. The themes in the feedback document will inform our discussions with the BMA’s GP committee.'

Dr Kanani said she hoped GPs would find the final specifications 'realistic, workable and fundamentally supportive of general practice, the partnership model and primary care networks - as well as good for our patients'.

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