GP practices will be funded approximately £13,500 per practice for ‘transition cover’ as part of a new ‘access recovery’ plan launched this week that could be used to fund GP locum cover.
“For practices looking to implement a Modern General Practice Access model over the next two years, and which need appointment books to be cleared in advance, we will also fund up to three weeks of transition cover (~£13,500/practice) – this could include sessions from current practice staff, by sessional GPs or support from experienced peers,” authors of the Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care write.
This work is due to begin this month as part of the National General Practice Improvement Programme.
NHS England also hopes to deliver 50 million more appointments by March 2024 (compared to 2019), encourage GP returners by promoting more flexible and work-from-home roles, and retain more IMGs by adding four months to visas for newly-qualified GPs.
But the BMA and RCGP say that the plan fails to address the pressure forcing GPs out of the profession.
“Whilst all these initiatives are positive steps, none are the silver bullet that we desperately need to address the intense workload and workforce pressures,” College Chair Prof Kamila Hawthorne responded.
“There doesn’t seem to be much in the plan about how we stop GPs leaving the profession, or how we retain the staff that we already have,” Dr Kieran Sharrock, acting chair of the BMA England GP committee concurred.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “When the going gets tough, funding is found to call in support from GP locums to prop up general practice. Otherwise, we are pretty much left to fend for ourselves, without any central commitment to ongoing support. In the short term, this action may help practices kickstart the work on improving clinical capacity and alleviate appointment backlogs caused by previous lack of investment. However, it is likely to do little more than paper over the cracks in the system. Short-term grand gestures like these may signal serious intent, but they rarely succeed. Instead, we need long-term, ongoing investment in general practice that supports the entire GP workforce.”
“This looks like it’s going to be rolled out in the next few weeks, possibly with practices scrambling to book cover, so now would be an excellent time to put as much free availability onto LocumDeck as possible.”