England has 1,200 primary care networks in place, including some 7,000 practices, officials were due to announce today.
The networks are seen as crucial to the reform of general practice and were a key factor in changes to the GP contract agreed earlier this year. NHS England plans to allocate nearly £2 billion to the networks to allow them to recruit thousands of support staff for practices.
Further details were revealed last week in NHS England board papers. They show that about 50 practices are not enrolled in networks – 25 because they have decided not to take part. The remainder are still trying to reach agreement on membership.
GP Dr Nikki Kanani, acting medical director for primary care, said: “People across the country will benefit from access to more convenient and specialist care through their local GP. As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, GP surgeries large and small will be working together to deliver more specialist services to patients.
“The extra investment, additional staff and more convenient care will be a game-changer for NHS patients – and in thousands of communities across England, family doctors are coming together in networks, which will not only deliver better care, but a more efficient use of vital NHS resources.”
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “As the primary care networks get up and running in the coming weeks and months, patients will begin to see the benefits, freeing up GPs to focus on the sickest. This new way of working allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice, while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”
The Royal College of GPs said the networks would not be a “one size fits all” solution to the problems of general practice.
Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Working in networks should allow general practices to pool clinical and administrative resources, as well as making it easier to introduce truly multi-disciplinary teams – ultimately it should help to free up GPs’ time to spend with patients who need us most, and improve access to more integrated services for our communities.
“It is also essential that for Primary Care Networks to succeed, they are owned and designed by GPs and our teams – not subject to top-down imposition from commissioners. We are part of our local communities and are best-placed to understand our patient populations and their needs.”