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PCNs an ‘opportunity’ to build our workforce teams, says BMA

by Costanza Pearce
18 March 2019

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The recruitment of additional healthcare professionals into primary care networks (PCNs) is ‘an opportunity to build on our workforce teams and look after our patients further’, a BMA spokesperson has said.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, an executive member of the BMA GP committee, called on practices to join networks in order to better support their teams and provide improved patient care.

Speaking at the Londonwide LMCs Annual Conference last week (12 March), he said: ‘General practice isn’t just about GPs, it’s about our teams. It’s about the practice managers, the receptionists, the nurses and everybody else who makes us what we are.

‘Either we see PCNs as an opportunity to build on our workforce teams and look after our patients further, or we don’t engage and continue to be bogged down by increasing workload and dwindling workforce and are unable to get out of the rut that we’re currently in.’

As part of the new GP contract, 22,000 additional practice staff will be recruited by 2023/24, including social prescribing link workers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics and physician associates.

The additional staff will be employed as part of primary care networks (PCNs), which will receive 70% recurrent funding for the new roles and 100% funding for social prescribers from NHS England.

Working in networks will allow smaller practices to work with additional staff by making it financially viable.
An ‘unmanageable’ workload
Dr Kasaraneni said the GP contract’s focus on expanding the primary care team aims to address ‘the hard fact that there are more GPs leaving than joining the profession’.

He said: ‘GP numbers aren’t going to increase overnight and it’s no secret that this is because the workload is unmanageable. More and more people are either leaving the profession or cutting down their commitments to preserve their sanity, health and wellbeing.’

According to a 2016 King’s Fund report, GP consultations grew by more than 15% between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

Dr Kasaraneni said he hopes the expansion of the practice team as part of PCNs will ‘reduce workloads and improve general practice as a place to work’.
Social prescribing relieves pressures
Dr Kasaraneni said that in South Yorkshire where he works, ‘what were traditionally considered social problems ended up on the GP desk as health problems’ due to a lack of social services and ‘appropriate funding’.

He said: ‘There is absolutely nothing I could offer them as a GP. Their problem wasn’t health, it was social care.

‘Since social prescribing came in, most of that has disappeared. We had social prescribers who came to the practice every month and looked after all these patients who had mainly social needs and we rarely saw them again.’