The Government’s five-year contract for GPs marked the biggest reforms for our service for 15 years.
As we reported at the time, a key announcement involved the introduction of a new state backed indemnity scheme.
However, this was far from the only measure outlined. In this guide, we’ll give you a summary of the rest of GP contract and a flavour of the reaction to it.
New GP contract: The key points
NHS England’s announcement included:
- New recruits: 20,000 more staff will be enlisted to support GPs. These staff – a mix of pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing link workers – are intended to help GP practices form a local ‘primary care network’. The theory is that GPs will be freed up to spend more time with patients and practices will be able to offer more services. Setting up these networks could cost £1.8 billion by 2023.
- Digital first: NHS England vowed that every patient will get the right to ‘digital-first primary care’ by 2021. This will mean increased provision of online consultations – and extra IT support to help provide this. Patients will also be able to get digital access to their full records from 2020.
- Reform to phone lines: With 111 calls able to make direct bookings into GP surgeries.
- Clinical reform: New changes were announced to the GP Quality and Outcomes Framework. The Government says these will look at diabetes, blood pressure control and cervical screening – with plans to focus on heart failure, asthma, COPD, and mental health in the future.
- Earnings transparency: Extra public scrutiny of NHS earnings – and a new process to prevent ‘unexpectedly high or low earnings’.
- Avoidable A&E: A new £300 fund should see GP practices benefit from their role in cutting avoidable A&E attendance and outpatient appointments.
The reaction to the GP contract
Understandably, this new contract has prompted a flurry of interest and reaction. Here’s a flavour of what some key figures have said:
NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “This five-year deal unarguably represents the biggest boost to primary care in more than fifteen years, giving patients more convenient services at their local GP surgery while breaking down the divide between family doctors and community health services. It provides the practical foundation for the big service improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan.
“Patients across England – in towns, villages and cities – will all begin to see the benefits, beginning this year. And it allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”
Ian Dodge, National Director for Strategy and Innovation at NHS England said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, and the NHS needs general practice to survive and thrive. Through this comprehensive deal, the BMA and NHS England have sought to solve the big problems that general practice faces, and make it possible to expand services for patients.
“Having a Long Term Plan has allowed us to come up with a five-year funding deal for primary care, for the first time in NHS history. And it is also a good deal for taxpayers, with money going directly into extra staff and services.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, said: “This Contract gives five-year funding clarity and certainty for practices while giving patients improved services. Primary medical and community care resources will increase by £4.5 billion by 2023-24 and rise as a share of the overall NHS budget. And this agreement confirms how much of this new investment will stabilise and transform primary care through general practice and the evolution of Primary Care Networks. It’s a game changer and signals the start of a new era for general practice.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want the NHS always to be there for us when we need it. That means better access to GPs. This new contract provides certainty and security for all those working in general practice, and better, more modern access for patients.
‘GPs are the bedrock of the NHS and I want every patient to be able to access a GP quickly and increasingly online. Today’s agreement, building on our Long Term Plan for the NHS, backed by an extra £20.5 billion a year, will make that a reality.
“Everybody should be able to access a GP when they need to, in a way that suits them – and from embracing digital technology, to providing more flexible options for booking and attending appointments – we are giving greater power to patients to get the care that is right for them.”
Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Investing in general practice is investing in the entire health service – and this new contract promises to do just that, in the best interests of our profession, the sustainability of the NHS, and the care we deliver to more than a million patients a day across the country.
“We also welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.”
Kent LMC chair, Dr Gaurav Gupta, told Pulse: “I think this five-year contract deal can help stabilise the profession and the state backed indemnity will go some way in easing the recruitment crisis. Practices need to be at the centre of and lead primary care networks for full benefits of the deal to be realised. Much more work is needed to make general practice sustainable for the future but this deal is a good step in the right direction.”
A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association said: “We are fully behind the principle that multi-disciplinary working, designed locally, based around the patient and delivered in the community, is the best way to deliver transformative improvements in health care.
“So, we will work with colleagues across the sector to support our members to engage with primary care networks, which are becoming a very significant part of the NHS infrastructure.
“However, today’s announcement intensifies the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy owners who invest in training and development only to see people migrate to general practice. This is a risk that must be carefully managed, so that these new primary care workforce targets genuinely add to capacity.”
You can also read our reaction to the indemnity plans here.
What do you think of the GP contract? Do you support the Government’s plans? We’re keen to hear what you think.