• GPs will sign new “network contracts” as part of the drive to increase the scale of primary care operations
  • The new contracts will have a “designated fund” and sit alongside existing GP contracts
  • Primary care networks will be able to access a “shared savings scheme” linked to reductions in hospital activity

GPs will sign new “network contracts” as part of NHS England plans to extend the scope of primary and community services. 

In its long-term plan, published today, NHS England has said individual GP practices “will enter into a network contract, as an extension of their current contract”. 

The network contracts will have a “designated fund” and will be part of the new multi-year GP contract agreement currently being negotiated between NHS England and the British Medical Association.

HSJ understands a substantial amount of the new £4.5bn investment for primary care and community services, revealed this weekend, will be tied to the network contract and it is expected the large majority of GPs will sign up to it.

According to the long-term plan, enhanced service contracts commissioned by clinical commissioning groups will also be added to the new network contract. 

Primary care networks will constitute groups of primary and community providers, including GP practices, covering populations of between 30,000 to 50,000. It is believed that working at this scale will increase the speed of roll out and effectiveness of the new services.

According to the long-term plan, the new investment “will fund expanded community multidisciplinary teams aligned with new primary care networks.” The networks will also have access to a new “shared savings scheme” tied to reductions in hospital activity, such as accident and emergency attendances, delayed discharge and avoidable outpatient visits.

Plans to improve cancer services will require primary care networks to help improve early diagnosis of patients within their own neighbourhoods by 2023-24. 

NHS England has also revealed new requirements for digital primary care services in the long-term plan as part of measures to improve patient access.

As confirmed this weekend, primary care and community services will receive £4.5bn real terms growth in funding by 2023-24. NHS England has not set out the baseline spend on which the growth will be based, and it is understood it amounts to a little more than the 3.4 per cent for the NHS overall.

As part of plans to increase the workforce in general practice, NHS England has said newly qualified doctors and nurses entering their sector will be offered a two-year fellowship scheme. This was originally suggested by the GP partnership review.