NHS England has asked integrated care boards (ICBs) to identify where to allocate potential winter support funding to GP practices and PCNs in their area, if such funding were to materialise.
In a letter sent to all GP practices and PCNs yesterday, NHS England said that a new ICB framework will help local commissioners ‘rapidly assess’ where to allocate potential funding – for both ‘rapid improvement’ and longer-term access improvements in general practice.
It added that local commissioners should prioritise resources where they are most needed, such as in deprived areas or those with the ‘most serious recruitment challenges’.
NHS England added that the framework aims to build an ‘ongoing quality improvement support process’ for practices and PCNs.
ICBs were asked to return their submissions by 21 October ‘at the latest’ and NHS England stressed that local commissioners will not submit detail on individual practices or PCNs.
NHS England added that it is looking to ‘identify where additional capital should be made available via ICBs later in the year’ for GP resilience over the winter, ‘should it be made available’.
It suggested that areas for further investment might be digital interoperability tools for cross-PCN working such as enhanced access, estates improvements such as creating additional consulting rooms or increased automation of practices’ back-office work.
Additional key lines of enquiry could include assessing whether cloud-based telephony is in place across PCNs, or whether PCNs’ plans to deliver on the enhanced access brief have been signed off and if they have the IT interoperability to achieve them.
They should also determine whether practices have proper equipment to work effectively, and if their PCN has implemented any interventions to improve access.
Systems should also identify:
- How does the ICS support spread and adoption of automation of business functions?
- How does the ICS support the sharing of good practice and the impact of automation?
- Does the ICS plan to support further automation of practice functions?
NHS England’s letter also set out various other measures to support general practice over the winter, including changes to the PCN DES such as retiring or deferring four investment and impact fund (IIF) indicators worth £37m and allocating this funding to PCNs via a monthly payment.
NHS England also suggested the responsibility for the anticipatory care service will be shifted to integrated care systems (ICSs) to ‘better reflect system-level work’, from April 2023.
Last week, the health secretary set out that ICBs will be expected to ‘hold practices to account’ under the health secretary’s new plan to improve access to primary care as aprt of her new plan for patient access.