Responding to NHS England’s changes to the GP contract for 2023/24 Professor Aruna Garcea, chair of the Primary Care Network’s advisory group at the NHS Confederation said:
“There is a lot to welcome in the new GP Contract, including the significant reduction in national targets via the stripped back QOF and IIF indicators, the greater flexibilities around recruitment, and the pause in DES requirements. These are things we have been calling for on behalf of our members for some time as they will reduce the bureaucracy faced by primary care teams and enable them to prioritise their resources more effectively around the specific needs of their local communities.
“Primary care leaders support the ambitions of the contract and the increased focus on improving access for patients. As acknowledged by NHS England, primary care is carrying out 11% more appointments than before the pandemic, which is particularly impressive given their patients tend to present with multiple and more complex needs, and that list sizes continue to grow while overall GP workforce numbers fall.
“The extra investment in improving access further, including through more cloud-based telephony systems, is welcome.
“However, to deliver real and long-lasting benefit to patients and staff in primary care, leaders are clear that it is important to not just fund the technology, but also the change. This will mean support to manage patient expectations during this transition, as well as taking a forensic look at the barriers to why some primary care networks and practices may have been slower than others to adopt these systems, making sure support can be tailored to local circumstances, and exploring the external challenges that can inhibit access and productivity.
“For example, over one in five premises in primary care are not fit for purpose currently and often these buildings are so cramped and rundown, and basic back-office support lacking, that any new recruits are held back from being able to work as efficiently as they would like. This is an issue the government must get to grips with in its Budget as well as how inflation has increased costs for primary care.
“2023/24 is expected to be a transitory year as the PCN model evolves in line with Dr Claire Fuller’s recommendations and our members are eager to contribute to the development of this so that primary care can be sustained as the vital front door of the NHS.”