PCNs in the most deprived areas of England could receive nearly £19m in 2023/24 if major funding streams accounted for deprivation, the Health Foundation has said.
Currently only three of the seven PCN funding streams are calculated using the ICB allocation formula, with the remaining four population-based funding streams either using Carr-Hill or having no weighting.
But if the four remaining streams – which account for around 65% of PCN funding – were moved onto the ICB’s formula that accounts for deprivation, deprived PCNs would receive an additional £18.6m this year, the thinktank claimed.
In its new report – Doing More For Less (12 December) – the Health Foundation identified that, when increased need is accounted for, there were significantly fewer additional primary care staff, such as pharmacists, physiotherapists and care coordinators, in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived areas – six fewer per 100,000 needs-adjusted patients.
Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and a senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: ‘General practice in the poorest areas, where people have the greatest health needs, is missing out on much needed funding and additional staff.
‘Without this, the health of people in more deprived areas risks falling even further behind other parts of the country.’
The Health Foundation said the disparity between affluent and deprived areas was particularly concerning given that PCNs have been tasked with reducing health inequalities.
And it urged NHS England to reform its funding formulas to ensure PCNs in areas of high deprivation receive the funding they need.
Dr Fisher said the renegotiation of funding contracts for PCNs and GPs was ‘an opportunity to address this issue’.
The Health Foundation report said that those at the frontline believed PCNs had real potential for supporting patients in the most deprived areas providing there was improved support from commissioners and funding that properly accounts for population needs.
In 2023/24, PCNs received £2.4bn of government investment in general practice.
Earlier this year, the BMA demanded IIF and PCN DES monies –alongside QOF – all get moved into one simplified core general practice funding stream in new contract discussions.