What are primary care flexible staff pools?

The primary care flexible staff pool arrangements reflect the People Plan commitment to establish GP banks, and replaces the Locum Support Scheme commitment made in Update to the GP Contract Agreement 2020/21-2023/24 for 2020/21. The delivery ask of this year is a continuation of the initiative first launched in December 2020

As with last year, in 2021/22 each integrated care system (ICS) can receive up to £120,000 via NHS England and NHS Improvement regions to implement or augment their virtual pool arrangements at pace. These financial allocations are complemented by further optional enablers, which systems may opt to utilise, including a template contract and a digital suppliers’ framework.

The ambition is for these flexible staff pools to support groups of primary care networks (PCNs), most likely at clinical commissioning group or place footprint, to increase capacity in general practice and create a new offer for local GPs wanting to work flexibly. It is expected that practices and PCNs will benefit from a reduced burden in accessing temporary staff, and the potential to build better relationships with pool members. GPs supported through the pool arrangement could have access to the flexibility of a locum role, with the additional benefits of a salaried position.

The vision for 2021/22 is for the flexible staff pools to be developed into a mechanism that act as a local point of contact, offering support and advice to the GP workforce more widely through robust engagement – particularly for doctors returning to general practice, such as those on a career break or parental/adoption leave. GPs who are interested in joining their local flexible pool should contact their ICS.


Two elements of funding are associated with this activity:

A) up to £120k per system to support the development and running costs of a pool;

B) the General Practice CCEF (£120m) allocations, calculated on a weighted capitation basis, which have been made to systems.

There are two enablers which systems may use to support pool delivery:

A) access to a digital supplier framework to support the deployment of staff to shifts;

B) a flexible working GP contract template.

When does this launch?

Systems should have a pool(s) underway now.

What benefits are anticipated?

  • System: reduced pressure on spend and improved access to a knowledgeable group of GPs, deployable to wherever the need is greatest.
  • Practices and PCNs: reduced burden in accessing temporary staff and potential to build better relationships with pool members.

GPs: where a contract is offered, increased job security and access to the flexibility of a locum role, with the additional benefits of a salaried position (including death in service).

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