PCNs have been advised to ‘grow [their] own’ additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) staff to help address recruitment challenges.
Speaking at Pulse PCN’s London live event, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee in England Dr Kieran Sharrock suggested PCN workforce leads ‘think flexibly’ and put existing staff forward for further training when trying to fill ARRS roles.
Dr Sharrock, who is also a Lincolnshire GP, said that PCNs should identify current staff who could undergo ‘very minimal’ training to take on a new role.
He said: ‘For social prescribing link workers, the training is very minimal – it’s an online course and a commitment to sign up to some further training, then you’ve got a social prescribing link worker.’
This would also apply to health and wellbeing coaches, for which the training is also ‘minimal’, he added.
And workforce leads should identify people already within their practice who have an interest in becoming a trainee nurse associate, he said, adding that these staff could free up practice nurses’ time by leading on childhood immunisations and smear tests.
He told delegates: ‘Yes, that means they have to take time out to train, but in the long run it will save you some time.
‘Growing your own really is one of the things we have to do because we can’t just find a pharmacist, we can’t just find a nurse practitioner – there aren’t that many out there.’
Dr Sharrock noted that while this will not fill all the gaps in a PCN’s workforce, it may help existing staff to work better.
He also flagged that offering existing staff training and support is likely to help retain them.
However, RCGP analysis from only a few months before had put that number far lower – at 9,464 as of September 2021 – suggesting the Government risked failing to meet its target. The Department for Health and Social Care rejected this suggestion.
Last month, The King’s Fund also claimed there is ‘a risk that the scheme will fail to have the intended impact’ on reducing GP pressures.
Meanwhile, updated terms to the network contract last week revealed that PCNs will be able to deploy twice as many adult mental health practitioners, with the approval of their provider.