Sweeping changes to the Network DES will see £37m worth of funding reallocated towards direct support payments for improving core GP access this winter.
Four investment and impact fund (IIF) indicators that are worth £37m in total will be deferred or scrapped, with that funding instead allocated to PCNs via a monthly support payment from October and until 31 March next year.
It comes within a raft of measures intended to support general practice through the winter.
In a letter sent to practices and PCN leads (26 September), NHS England announced the new support payment will be paid to PCNs monthly and will be based on the PCN’s adjusted population.
It said: ‘In line with the reinvestment commitment relating to IIF earnings, the PCN capacity and access support payment must be used to purchase additional workforce and increase clinical capacity to support additional appointments and access for patients.’
To achieve this, NHS England said it would immediately defer three IIF indicators to 2023/24, including the target for GP networks to offer patients appointments within two weeks.
And a fourth indicator, focused on identifying and tackling health inequalities, will be retired entirely (see below for more details (see below for more details on the indicators).
The incentive at network level target to offer patients an appointment within two weeks is separate to health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey’s new plan for patient access announced last week. This set out an ‘expectation’ that GP practices offer non-urgent appointments to patients within two weeks as well as same-day urgent appointments. The BMA has since said that these access proposals have no contractual basis.
Meanwhile, the update on measures to boost winter capacity also confirmed it will increase the ARRS maximum reimbursement rates for 2022/23 to account for the Agenda for Change uplift.
It also said it would up the current cap on hiring advanced practitioners (APs) through the ARRS, from one per PCN to two (double for those with over 100,000 patients), and will remove the minimum 0.5 FTE restriction on clinical pharmacists after they have completed their 18-month training course.
NHS England will also reimburse training time for nursing associates to become registered nurses who work in practices, and will also consider support for senior nurses within PCNs for April 2023 onwards.
A version of this story was previously published in our sister title Pulse