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Matt Hancock has said he wants to ensure ‘value for money’ from primary care networks (PCNs) as part of the ongoing contract negotiations with the BMA.
In a House of Commons session this morning, the health secretary also stressed how PCNs have been an ‘incredibly successful innovation’.
During the sitting, in which questions are put to Mr Hancock, Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, asked Mr Hancock how he was going to ‘fix’ the GP contract negotiations.
Mr Ashworth added: ‘Or is he [Mr Hancock] content to see more GPs walk out of PCNs before they’ve even got off the ground?’
Responding, Mr Hancock said: ‘He’ll [Mr Ashworth] understand why I want to get the best possible value for money, for the money that the NHS spends.’
He added that negotiations with the BMA over the GP contract are ‘always tough’ but that PCNs have been successful so far.
He said: ‘Primary care networks have been an incredibly successful innovation, with the whole country covered by PCNs, which allow practices to work together.’
The exchange between Mr Hancock and Mr Ashworth follows the release of controversial network proposals by NHS England, which have caused an outcry among the profession and are now being discussed as part of contract negotiations.
GP leaders warned the proposals, covering five service specifications – one of which included the requirement for GPs in networks to visit care home patients every fortnight – could threaten practices’ viability.
They warned the plans were not achievable due to the increase in workload and lack of additional funding during a time of a staffing crisis in general practice – and in some regions practices were advised to reject the network DES contract altogether.
GPs have also stepped down from their roles as clinical directors of networks following the release of the proposals.