Expert team to help under-pressure GPs

A SCHEME to help GP practices in England facing workload and workforce pressures get “back on track” has been launched by the Royal College of GPs.

A 70-strong team of “experts” – consisting of GPs, practice nurses, practice managers and pharmacists – will offer advice and guidance to those struggling to recruit doctors, keep pace with patient demand, or even facing closure.

The RCGP says the aim is to “strengthen [practices’] resilience” and builds on the work of their national Special Measures peer support programme that has so far helped 74 practices who received unfavourable Care Quality Commission inspections. But the College said practices do not need to be in “special measures” to be eligible for help under the new scheme.

The new plans will see the RCGP’s expert team visit practices, carry out an assessment and recommend a tailored and targeted programme of support to “put them back on a more secure footing.”

It is estimated the diagnostic and action plan part of the scheme will cost £7,500 plus VAT per practice. The RCGP said this would largely be paid for by the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) but that some practices may opt to bypass their CCG or NHS England and approach the College directly for help.

NHS England pledged £16 million for practice resilience in its GP Forward View budget, announced in April 2016. But recent analysis by the RCGP found that, by the end of December 2016, only £2.5 million of this had been spent and only 219 of 1,453 eligible practices had received funding. The College is now calling on NHS England to carry over any underspend from the Practice Resilience programme to the next financial year.

RCGP Vice Chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “Our ageing population and rapidly increasing patient demand means that many practices are floundering through no fault of their own. The College’s scheme will help them get back on track; in some communities, it could be the vital lifeline they need to guarantee the future of the family doctor service, close to patients’ homes where they want to be treated.”

Practices and CCGs can find out more information by emailing rcgpforwardview@rcgp.org.uk