Nearly two thirds of primary care staff say they have seen no improvement following sustainability and transformation partnerships’s (STPs) allocations of funds to general practice, a new report by Healthcare Leader publisher Cogora has found.
Published today, the Primary Concerns 2018: The State of Primary Care report found that 59% of primary care staff feel there has been no improvement in the sector as a result of NHS England’s recommendation to STPs to earmark 15% of their sustainability and transformation fund (STF) allocations to general practice.
Only 0.8% said ‘substantial improvement’ had been made, while 12% acknowledged some improvement had been made.
The authors of the report surveyed more than 2,300 GP partners, salaried GPs, practice managers, pharmacists, nurses and healthcare assistants.
GP partners were the least enthusiastic about STPs, with 73% responding that they had not seen any improvement following STP fund allocations.
Their views were shared by 66% of practice managers, 65% of pharmacy contractors, and 61% of advanced nurse practitioners.
Through the STF, NHS England made £1.8bn available for providers in deficit from 2016/17, and recommended that 15-20% of the fund should go to general practice.
An anonymous GP partner said: ‘Most of [the STF] £1.8bn went towards paying trusts’ debt. What eventually reached general practice was given to favourites. The result is that a few GPs have done extremely well at the expense of the many.’
STPs impact on patient care
The report also found that 54% of GP partners think that STPs had had a negative impact on patient care in the 12 months leading up to the survey.
A smaller percentage of practice managers, 35%, agreed with the GP partners’ views. One practice manager said of the STP structure and functionality: ‘STPs are a talking shop and are not having a direct impact on primary care.’
This lack of enthusiasm for and confidence in the effectiveness of STPs comes at a time when the NHS has decided that working more collaboratively needs to be the way forward.
It set out a deadline for integrated care systems (ICSs), which will grow out of STP formations, to cover all of England by April 2021.
However, ICS lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership Rob Webster said his partnership had found STF allocations helpful.
He explained that the organisation had used £2.6m of the transformation funds to help their practices ‘address the specific challenges that they are facing’.
He said: ‘This is a useful precursor to the substantial investments which will now flow through the new primary care contracts. It is vital GPs, nurses, therapists, social care staff, families and carers start to see a real and meaningful improvement in the next few years.
‘We are working with NHS England and Health Education England through our local workforce action board and the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Workforce Steering Group to find solutions to improve recruitment and retention of staff into these vital services’.