In November 2020, NHS England released a document encouraging CCGs, GPs and general practice teams to maintain their efforts to keep patient access to general practice up to pre-Covid levels throughout the national lockdown. To achieve this, NHS England announced the release of the General Practice Covid Capacity Expansion Fund.
What is the COVID Capacity Expansion Fund?
The COVID Capacity Expansion Fund consists of £150m to be used exclusively in general practice, which works out as around £22,000 per practice. NHS England says the intention behind the fund is to provide support to practices who ‘are encouraged to use the fund to stimulate the creation of additional salaried GP roles’ which would be ‘attractive to practices and locums alike’.
There has been some confusion around whether this is intended to move locum GPs into salaried roles rather than offering them fixed-term contracts, but NHS England has since confirmed that the fund is designed to be executed with minimal bureaucracy and surgeries and practices should use the money to bring GPs into ‘substantive’ posts but are free to use the fund for locum GPs too.
Who can use the COVID Capacity Expansion Fund?
All ICSs and CCGs, general practice surgeries, other NHS and private facilities are entitled to access the fund and will be immediately allocated the funding. Although the fund is available to all general practice facilities, NHS England has stipulated some conditions:
Accessing the fund will be conditional on practices and PCNs continuing to complete national appointment and workforce data in line with existing contractual requirements. Where an individual practice is not yet accurately recording activity that is broadly back at its own pre-COVID levels, it is expected to do so as part of accessing the fund. CCGs should seek to understand and support the relatively small number of practices that are finding restoration of their activity most difficult.
How can it be used?
The fund can be used to expand a practice’s capacity up till the end of March 2021 and should not be used to support resourcing after that date.
NHS England has outlined that the fund will create useful staffing solutions by allowing:
- Greater locum engagement
- The creation of more salaried positions
- Increased time commitments from existing staff
- Support for GPs returning to work to aid COVID efforts
Not only will the increased resources allow for greater patient appointment capacity, it will also provide the opportunity for backfills for staff absences and to support backlogs.
How can I find locums to support my practice?
If you are a healthcare provider or GP practice in need of extra support sourcing exceptional GPs during the pandemic, Key Medical Services is pleased to offer fast and flexible solutions. Please get in touch to discuss your unique requirements and we will endeavour to provide bespoke solutions to suit your needs.