• NHS changes rules to make it easier for charities to be involved in primary care networks
  • New roles allow ringfenced budgets to be used to pay for third party management costs
  • PCNs were trying to contract third sector to supply social prescribers but could not previously pay them management costs 

NHS England has made it easier for charities to be involved in primary care networks — by allowing ringfenced budgets to be used to pay for third party management costs.

PCNs have been seeking to contract charities and other third sector organisations to supply thousands of social prescriber link workers. They are able to claim back 100 per cent of the salaries, national insurance and pension payments, from a ringfenced national budget, to pay the organisations for the workers provided.

However, “nearly all” organisations supplying social prescribers have also passed additional management costs back to the PCNs, which were not covered by the central fund.

But now the national commissioner has decided PCNs can use some of this funding to contribute to these additional administrative costs, according to a letter to PCNs from NHSE.

PCNs can claim up to £34,113 for a prescriber, and £2,400 of that can now be used to contribute to the additional employment costs. This money “is not in addition to the maximum reimbursable amount per role” and must be taken from the annual sum available for paying social prescribers, according to the letter, seen by HSJ.

It is hoped this will ease a major blockage on PCNs using the full extent of the additional roles reimbursement scheme before the end of March 2020 — a key NHS expectation for PCNs.

HSJ understands NHSE’s primary care director, Nikki Kanani, pushed for the change to the scheme to clear this issue and enable PCNs to start hiring the social prescribing link workers.

PCNs are meant to be hiring the social prescribers and clinical pharmacists in their first year. The additional workforce is seen as essential to alleviating GP workload while the requirements under the network contract get more onerous, starting with five new service specifications from April 2020.

Nicholas Grundy, who has been working on PCN development for Richmond GP Alliance, welcomed the decision.

“[Charities] don’t want to make money out of this, but they didn’t want to lose money because they can’t afford to, they haven’t got money kicking around to do it,” Dr Grundy told HSJ.

“And so, entirely reasonably, they’ve been saying ‘look we can’t do this if all we’re getting is the cost of the staff’. And then you have the problem that although the pot of money is arguably big enough we couldn’t use it to pay them a management fee.”