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Five-year GP contract: the sector reacts

Five-year GP contract: the sector reacts
By Gemma Collins
1 February 2019

The new five-year GP contract was announced today – containing features including funding for 22,000 additional practice staff by 2023/24; an average uplift of £14,000 for practices to join primary care networks (PCNs); and an £1.8bn investment in PCNs.

Here is what the healthcare sector had to say about the new contract and what it means for general practice, primary care and the NHS:

‘A cogent and substantial boost’

National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) Dr Minesh Patel said: ‘The five-year deal and this ramping up of investment for primary care marks a milestone for primary care.

‘Within current resources, primary care homes are already making a real difference to patients – increasing patient satisfaction and reducing pressure on the wider health system, the new money will mean they can go so much further.’

Commenting on the investment in primary care networks, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners Dr Graham Jackson said:

‘As a GP and a clinical commissioner I am really pleased to see a cogent and substantial boost for PCNs and the potential they have to support resilience in primary care.

It makes absolute sense to share and provide services over a larger footprint than just a single practice. This will lead to a better range of services delivering care closer to home.’

However, Dr Jackson added that while the additional funds were welcome, there are caveats: ‘The funding to boost this work and stabilise the future of primary care is of course welcome.

But we need to be careful that some of the timings and processes set out will not place undue pressure on the system or undermine the efforts of clinical commissioners to drive this forward – as well as the broader transformation agenda – at a time when they are also being asked to reduce their running costs by 20%.

‘Welcome recognition of the pressures facing general practice’

Chief executive of NHS Confederation Niall Dickson said of the GP contract and the changes it contains:

‘This investment in primary care and the creation of networks with different health and care staff working together for the benefit of patients is a fantastic opportunity to support overstretched general practice as well as other hard pressed services in the community.

Working with our partners, we are keen to play a key role in supporting the development of these new networks and making sure they can influence the national policy-making in this vital area.

The strength of the PCNs will be in the range of skills and expertise brought by the primary care professionals that will be a cornerstone of the networks.’

Chief executive of The King’s Fund Richard Murray praised elements of the GP contract, commenting:

‘The new deal is welcome recognition of the pressures facing general practice and signals a fundamental change in the way that GP services will be delivered, with teams of professionals including pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics working with GPs and practice nurses to provide care to patients.

He did, however, add that there are also challenges ahead:  ‘As well as providing additional funding for new staff, the contract requires practices to work together in new networks to share staff and provide a wider range of services to patients.’

‘The timetable for implementing these changes looks extremely challenging and it will be important that general practice and community services are supported to put these plans into practice.’

‘Focus on collaborative working’

Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Investing in general practice is investing in the entire health service – and this new contract promises to do just that, in the best interests of our profession, the sustainability of the NHS, and the care we deliver to more than a million patients a day across the country.

‘We also welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.

She added: ‘We hope that today’s announcement of the new contract will mean that we can finally turn a corner towards making general practice sustainable for the future.

Now we need the forthcoming NHS England workforce strategy to deliver viable measures to continue recruitment efforts into general practice, and initiatives to keep more GPs working in it.’

Former medical director of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust Umesh Prabhu said:

‘I am really delighted that primary care got lot of money. I am pleased to see [a rise in] workforce and not just more GPs, as this is the only way NHS can survive.

Mr Prabhu, who is also senior lecturer at Edge Hill University, added: ‘I am also pleased it is a contract for five years as it gives stability.

We must invest more in doctors’ wellbeing as they are under tremendous pressure to deliver […] and care for all staff who are working so hard in the NHS.’

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