BMA urges GPs to share views on PCN plans

The BMA is asking GP practices to offer their views on new draft specification for PCNs

The British Medical Association is urging GPs, practices and local medical committees to give their views about the draft specifications for primary care networks (PCNs).

Medical leaders are in talks with NHS England about the details in the specifications, and will echo concerns already raised surrounding workload implications and how to implement change.

BMA GPs committee chair, Richard Vautrey, called for more staff involved in PCNs to give their views – with the feedback being used to “form the basis of talks”.

He added: “General practice continues to be under a huge amount of pressure and we hear the concerns raised by the profession in recent weeks about these draft specifications, the workload implications and the need for a qualified workforce to deliver them, loud and clear.

“While the content of negotiations is confidential, the profession should rest assured that we are listening to doctors on the ground, reviewing their feedback and this will form the basis of talks with NHS England to ensure that the specifications are fair and appropriate before they are agreed.

“In turn, we would urge as many clinical directors, GPs, practices and LMCs as possible to raise concerns directly with NHSE to ensure their voices are heard.”

The draft guidance, which was released just before Christmas, outlines five national services PCNs will be required to deliver from April 2020 onward. They are:

  • Structured medication reviews

  • Enhanced health in care homes

  • Anticipatory care

  • Personalised care

  • Services to support early cancer diagnosis.

Sian Stanley, PCN clinical director in Hertfordshire, said that the original idea behind PCNs of freeing up GPs from their overwhelming workloads through the appointment of other staff and new models of care remained a ‘positive’ concept, but added that NHS England’s draft specifications are ‘too rigid’.

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She said: “The BMA viewed [PCNs] similarly to myself – a way to get funding into the profession. It was a positive step for collaboration and enabling that but I can’t help feel there is an agenda and NHS England seem to have seen it as an opportunity to direct the day-to-day activities of a general practice and have overloaded it.

“Good funding needs to flow into general practice and GPs be allowed and trusted to save the service. Ultimately, we are the only ones that can. We need to be trusted and respected and allowed to do what we do best which is to use the funding to improve patient care.”

Last year, the BMA surveyed PCN clinical directors about the process so far. The results showed that 72% of clinical directors who indicated they were confident about providing clinical and strategic leadership for their network were part of PCNs where some practices had already been working at scale.

The survey also found that clinical directors who were confident about their ability to provide clinical and strategic leadership for their network were most likely to be based in medium-sized PCNs. Additionally, 63% of clinical directors said their workload was not manageable.

The full survey results will be released in a BMA report later this month.

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