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NHS England has ‘formally’ scrapped controversial plans to set up a £3m network accelerator programme.
The scheme, which selected primary care networks (PCNs) to become accelerator sites, was originally announced as a way to reward those making progress with funding of up to £200,000.
Following feedback from GPs, NHS England will instead pool the money into STP level funds, which have already been ‘earmarked’ to spend on PCN development, but will be allocated according to STP patient populations.
While GP leaders have welcomed the move as it no longer favours ‘thriving’ PCNs over struggling ones, they say there is still a risk that the money saved from the programme could get lost in the ‘balance book black holes.’
In NHS England’s most recent board papers, it was announced that an increase in PCN funding through ICSs/STPs of a further £2.8m came instead of supporting accelerators.
The papers said: ‘We have committed to providing extra development funding of around £1m/system on a weighted capitation basis.
‘This is on top of existing allocations and the money announced in January for the GP contract. It comes out of the centrally held NHS England allocation for primary care.
‘The funding will flow through ICSs/STPs from the end of June. The amount will also be higher than listed: we will increase the total by a further £2.8million, instead of supporting a small number of PCN accelerators.’
GP leaders have welcomed the move, saying that the ‘ill-thought-out’ scheme would have neglected deprived struggling areas if followed through.
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire LMCs chief executive Dr Matt Mayer said: ’It is encouraging to hear that NHS England has taken the concerns of GPs on board and scrapped the PCN accelerator programme. This scheme would have concentrated funds into areas which are already thriving whilst neglecting those areas that are struggling and need it most.
‘This would have created a two-tier primary care system, and only served to produce a handful of well funded high flying PCNs which the Government would no doubt cite as biased evidence that PCNs are saving general practice.
Dr Mayer added he is glad the money is staying in primary care, as long as it isn’t spent on deficits and management costs.
A July newsletter from Londonwide LMCs said: ‘NHS England has formally scrapped its plans to fund select PCNs to act as accelerator sites to evaluate the best methods of quickly developing PCNs. This money will instead be rolled into STP level funds which have already been earmarked for supporting PCN development, with funding allocated based on STP patient populations.’
A Londonwide LMCs spokesperson told our sister publication Pulse that the news had been ‘quietly’ passed around to CCG chairs from NHS England regional teams around the end of June and that the money set aside for the scheme would be rolled into other PCN development funds that will be passed around at STP level.