The health commitments made by the government in the General Election are at risk of collapse without greater support and investment in primary care, the NHS Confederation has warned.
In the run up to last month’s General Election, the Conservative Party committed to introducing 50 million extra GP appointments, improving NHS performance, increasing access to services away from hospitals and establishing 6,000 extra primary care professionals, on top of the 20,000 already committed to in the NHS Long Term Plan.
However, the NHS Confederation said these pledges might not materialise because the GPs and other professionals who have been tasked with transforming primary care in their local areas across England have not been given the time, support and funding they need.
Its survey of 157 clinical directors that lead primary care networks found 48% are confused about the funding available to them and how it is allocated.
Primary care networks were set up in July 2019 and involve general practices working together and with community health services in areas covering populations of 30,000 to 50,000, to pool their resources and access additional funding.
Half of clinical directors said this is their first leadership role and the same proportion warned that without dedicated management support, clinical directors will continue to be overburdened and unable to progress at the pace expected.
Eight out of 10 primary care networks said they need more time to develop the relationships between their general practices and with community healthcare providers.
These findings come as the NHS Confederation launches a new PCN Network, which will provide a collective voice for primary care networks across England and influence national policy and debate.
Ruth Rankine, development director for primary care networks at the NHS Confederation, warned that the government’s vision is at risk of being nothing more than a pipedream because the fundamental building block for transformation has not been given appropriate time and investment.
“It has been only six months since primary care networks have set up across England and despite the huge potential, there is overwhelming concern that they are far from prepared or resourced to deliver what is being expected of them,” she said.
Dr Graham Jackson, senior clinical advisor to the NHS Confederation, said although there are many strong examples across the country of primary care networks flourishing, many clinical directors are struggling and are concerned about the sustainability of the model.