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£250m package is ‘a real recognition’ of pressure on GPs, say NHSE leaders

by Caitlin Tilley
5 November 2021

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GPs should take the £250m winter access fund as a ‘real recognition of the pressure that general practice is under’, Ed Waller, director for primary care strategy at NHS England, has said.

Speaking at a primary care virtual conference yesterday (4 November), hosted by NHS Confederation, Mr Waller told Rakesh Marwaha, PCN network board member at the confederation, that the money comes at a time when ‘there’s an awful lot of opportunity to spend public money on all parts of the public sector’.

Mr Marwaha told Mr Waller that general practice is not feeling supported by the NHS, to which Mr Waller replied: ‘I understand that some people do feel that way. I do think people should take the existence of the winter access fund in its own right as a real recognition of the pressure that general practice is under.’

In NHS’s primary care bulletin sent yesterday evening (6 November), Mr Waller and NHS England’s primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said they want to help set primary care on a ‘supported and optimistic course, recognising the complex challenges we have been facing’.

Referring to the access plan, they urged GPs to ‘read the document itself, rather than simply the commentary around it, because the plan does provide support for some of the things that practices tell us needs to happen’.

The bulletin said: ‘While we can’t ignore the concerns from some patients and patient groups who have struggled to get the care they need, neither do we ignore what GPs and their teams are telling us would make a difference.’

The bulletin also said that ‘all practices can access support’, despite previously confirming that ‘some practices in receipt of enhanced support will not be eligible for funding’.

‘For practices that are in most need of support, additional help outside of simple funding will be crucial – money alone won’t help,’ they argued.

It comes as the BMA and some LMCs have advised GPs ‘not to engage’ with the access plan, while other LMCs are against the BMA action or still deliberating.

In another talk at the conference, Dr Kanani and NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard were asked how GPs and their leaders actually start addressing some of the negative views from the media together.

Dr Kanani said PCNs should share the ‘stories that I know you have’.

‘Because I think one of the difficult things is, and our comms teams are always trying to do this, we’re putting out press releases to support general practice and primary care networks.

‘But we want to be able to tell those incredible stories as well. We tell them sometimes they get picked up, sometimes they don’t, but please help us to really showcase some of what primary care is doing.’

Ms Pritchard agreed that ‘some of that I think hasn’t had, perhaps, the airtime that we would like it to have had’.

‘I think that’s certainly something we can collectively work harder at to make sure that we are promoting and shining a light on all of those extraordinary examples and more.’ 

Dr Pramit Patel, GP and chair of the PCN network at the NHS Confederation, also asked Ms Pritchard: ‘how are we going to address the perception that primary care isn’t an equal partner?’, to which she said she does not see any part of the NHS ‘as being less important’ and that funding allocated to PCNs shows this.

In the closing address at the conference, Dr Gary Howsam, vice chair of RCGP and GP, said the general practice workforce was ‘quite frankly knackered’.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.