NHS England (NHSE) has today announced a new deal to expand the services of non-GPs in primary care. The agreement is part of a new five-year contract with GPs in England, and has the backing of the British Medical Association (BMA).
The plan will eventually see NHSE funding 20,000 staff to support GPs in primary care, including pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates, and social prescribing support workers. The intent is that patients with problems that can be solved by non-GPs, or where patients would benefit from longer appointments than a GP can provide, will be seen by these staff, freeing up GP time for appointments.
There are around 33,000 GPs in England, so this number of additional support staff for primary care would represent a significant increase in staffing for the sector. The news follows NHSE’s announcement earlier in the week around its plans to recruit ‘link workers’ to support GPs with social prescribing, and is part of broader moves on primary care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The Long Term Plan has been broadly welcomed by healthcare professionals, but many have raised questions about how its ambitions will be adequately staffed. If NHS England’s current proposals can be properly implemented, this may go a considerable way to addressing these concerns.
The contract deal also contains a number of other changes which aim to promote the expansion of primary and preventative care set out in the Long Term Plan. This includes moves to coordinate GP practices into Primary Care Networks, in order to reduce the risk of isolated practices being forced to close, and provide a framework to allow practices to share the services of the new non-GP support staff to be recruited as part of this initiative.
“The new contract will help join-up care, with neighbouring practices, big and small working in multi-disciplinary teams with other community services. That will particularly benefit frail and elderly patients and others with long term and complex conditions”
– Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England
“Support and funding for Primary Care Networks mean practices can work together, led by a single GP, and employ additional staff to provide a range of services in the local area, ensuring patients have ready access to the right healthcare professional, and helping reduce workload pressures on GPs”
– Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee Chair