In a letter to GPs, NHS England said integrated care systems would have access to funding to support the ‘implementation and running costs’ of local pools until March 2022.
NHS England announced plans last July to set up local banks of GPs working flexibly as part of its People Plan strategy. The scheme aims to boost general practice capacity by making it easier for surgeries to access temporary staff.
The update says systems will need to share a plan with their regional NHS England and Improvement team to access the funding, which repeats funding provided last year.
Flexible GP pools
GPs can use £120m made available through the additional Covid Capacity Expansion Fund (CCEF) to recruit staff from these pools.
A letter from NHS England said: ‘Support for systems and PCNs to develop flexible pools of GP staff to work across the area will continue this year, with up to a further £120,000 per system being made available to support this work.
‘Funding can be used to either establish a pool where provision doesn’t exist, or further enhance the function of existing pools, for instance with keep in touch days, or contact and support for returning GPs.
‘Pools can also be used to support the utilisation of the £120m CCEF over April to September. Further detail is available in a refreshed guidance note.’
General practice capacity
Updated guidance states that funds can be used to pay for costs of staff time to administer and oversee the running of the pools, and/or to procure a digital mechanism, such as an app, to match and deploy GPs to shifts.
In systems where pools have already been established, it says that resources can be used to ‘augment, expand, enhance or manage what is already in place’. It adds that systems may wish to use the pool to ‘better engage their sessional GPs’.
GPs contracted through the pool benefit from increased job security and access to more flexible working, according to NHS England, as well as receiving the additional benefits of a salaried position – including death in service.
Flexible funding pools are set to replace the Locum Support Scheme commitment made in ‘Update to the GP Contract Agreement 2020/21-2023/24’ to build on flexible working patterns that have developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse previously spoke out against the introduction of flexible pools of GPs arguing that it would ‘shoehorn in a way of working’ that is unattractive to locums – and could undermine the primary care workforce.