Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be given £150m to support GP practices with managing routine demand, as the sector also prepares to deliver the Covid-19 vaccination programme, NHS England has said.
The General Practice Covid Capacity Expansion Fund, established yesterday (9 November), will see the financial boost ‘immediately’ allocated through integrated care systems (ICSs) to CCGs, which will have the power to decide where in general practice the money is spent.
This announcement comes as NHS England released details on the new directed enhanced service (DES) for a Covid-19 vaccination programme.
‘The £150m fund represents the total available additional Covid funding for general practice until March 2021, [with the exception of] arrangements for potential Covid vaccine delivery,’ it said in the letter.
Seven key priorities
While it will be up to CCGs to ‘determine how best it is spent within general practice’, NHS England said it expected the funding to be used to support seven key priorities, including an increase in GP numbers and capacity.
This includes possibly employing staff returning to assist the Covid-19 response, or potentially filling staff absences when individuals cannot work remotely and demand is high, it said.
The other priorities include tackling the large backlog of appointments, including for chronic disease management and routine vaccinations, and to make ‘significant progress’ on learning disability health checks – with all CCGs expected to meet the target of 67% by March 2021 ‘without exception’.
CCGs should also focus on supporting the establishment of the ‘simple Covid [email protected] model’, with details on this to be announced shortly, NHS England said.
The funding should also be used to identify and support patients with long-Covid and continue support for patients on the shielding list, it added.
Conditional access to fund
NHS England told CCGs to focus on ‘simplicity and speed of deployment’ and avoid ‘overly burdensome administrative process’ for PCNs and practices when rolling out the funding.
The letter said: ‘ICSs and CCGs will be expected to achieve these goals, and confirm they have spent the money fully within general practice. The funding is non-recurrent and should not be used to fund commitments running beyond this financial year.’
It added that access to the fund will be conditional on practices and PCNs continuing to complete national appointment and workforce data, in line with existing contractual requirements.
‘Where an individual practice is not yet accurately recording activity that is broadly back at its own pre-Covid levels, it is expected to do so as part of accessing the fund,’ NHS England said.
‘CCGs should seek to understand and support the relatively small number of practices that are finding restoration of their activity most difficult.’