GPs call for unspent PCN recruitment budget to be used to upgrade premises and equipment to fight the second spike
16th October 2020
It was no surprise to hear GPs are calling for the right to redeploy the £430m of unspent primary care network (PCN) recruitment funding to help in the fight against the second spike of coronavirus.
The money had originally been made available under the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS). It was to cover the costs of employing more specialist staff like physios Physicians Associates, Social Prescribers to support GPSs.
However, since the launch of the scheme earlier this year, it has become clear there is a shortage of possible hires on the market (a situation not helped by the ongoing pandemic and the additional pressures this has brought on healthcare staff). This has led to this underspend, underspend GPs are now urging the CCG to be more flexible with as COVID cases in most areas continue to rise sharply.
Over the summer NHS England put measures in place to help GP practices reclaim the additional expenses they’d been forced to cover during the initial stages of the pandemic. The need to – for example – add Perspex screens, increase PPE and replace carpets with more hygienic coverings were all unbudgeted and have proved expensive.
Despite the ability to make a claim, it appears many are still covering the costs themselves. This makes it even more obvious why GPs feel so strongly that the remainder of the ARRS pot should be made available to them so they can maximise patient care standards and make their practices as COVID-secure as they can.
The NHS have broadened the 11 roles the ARRS funding was initially designed to recruit to cover “any staff requirements” but this still does not detract from the GPs fear the desperately needed money will be lost if it’s not used. Moreover, they fear that if it is lost, NHS England and the CCG won’t be able to find similar sums to fund an adequate response to the second spike.
The response from the GPs hasn’t surprised Glyn Rawlings, Head of Medical at Rowleys:
“Recruitment definitely is an issue. It has been since the scheme was devised as there are just not the people out there to fulfil the roles. But as soon as it became obvious many PCN’s will underspend their budget and by the end of September, they should have been in discussions with the CCG and the LMC around the underspends.”
Although as accountants we are not able to comment on what may or may not happen in these discussions, Glyn has full sympathy with the GPs argument:
“The CCG should be taking a flexible approach to using this available funding. PCN funding is an increasing element of the GMS contract income and it should be spent on Primary Care. If the PCN cannot recruit then they should be able to agree with the CCG other ways to use these resources on additional Practice staff or additional hours to deliver services to their patients, which are under pressure due to Covid-19.”
We will continue to monitor and report developments but if you are a GP and would like to discuss any aspect of your practice’s finances, please call us on 0116 2827000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.