• Doctors’ union rejects new draft PCN contract and condemn NHSE’s original outline specifications
  • Negotiations with NHSE continue after centre “overwhelmed” with feedback rejecting its proffer

The British Medical Association’s GP committee rejected NHS England’s primary care network contract in a majority vote last night.

The GP committee was presented with a package of changes to the draft specifications for 2020-21, published by NHSE in December, but voted them down. The draft specifications had drawn criticism from GPs for being too unworkable and overly prescriptive. 

Exact details of the package remain confidential, however, so it is not clear whether the version it has rejected included several changes to the PCN specifications, which NHSE has been planning following feedback.

The committee passed a motion condemning the original December draft of the specifications and calling for an emergency meeting of England’s local medical committees — bodies that represent the interests of individual GPs — to discuss the contract and decide how the profession will respond.

NHSE and the GP committee were aiming to finalise the deal before the end of January.

The emergency LMC meeting will be held after the GP committee and NHSE agree the new contract.

It is unclear if the meeting will be able to veto the contract, but LMCs will have the opportunity to bring motions supporting or condemning whatever deal emerges.

Richard Vautrey, chair of the GP committee, said NHSE had been “overwhelmed with feedback” on the draft contract, “which was unanimous in its condemnation”. The GP committee has now “made its own position clear”, he added, though would not elaborate on what issues the committee had with the specification, beyond the criticism from the rest of the profession.

Graham Jackson, senior clinical adviser at the NHS Confederation, said: “Clinical directors couldn’t have been clearer in voicing their fundamental concerns to the draft specifications. The outcome of these discussions has to be constructive so that the benefits PCNs can bring will not be watered down and so that more clinical directors do not walk away.”

NHS Confederation today launched a network for PCNs and has published the results of a survey of clinical directors. They said the new service specifications, when introduced, will “place significant additional demands on an already over-burdened workforce”.

It called for NHSE to carve out more time for PCN leaders to focus on building relationships between their network members, and their network the wider health system. It also called on NHSE to provide PCNs with protected funding for PCNs to employ management support to free-up the clinical directors to focus on strategic development and building relationships.