As part of the NHS' largest partner, Acacium Group, the Bank Partners team have unique insight into the challenges and opportunities within the UK's health service. Over the past year, Acacium Group has worked closely with the NHS to help provide it with the added flexibility it needs to grow capacity at short notice to meet surges in demand. This experience has equipped us with insight into how NHS capacity can be maximised in the months and years to come. One of these areas is new staffing solutions specifically for Primary Care Networks.
Before COVID-19, primary and community care services had already been undergoing rapid transition. The new Primary Care Networks (PCNs), which bring together groups of GP practices to work at scale to deliver some services to bigger populations of 30-50,000 people, blur some of the traditional boundaries between primary and community care services.
By pooling the resources of multiple GP practices, PCNs can aim to employ more varied staff – physiotherapists, specialist nurses and pharmacists, for example, that traditionally may not have been considered part of community care.
As with most areas of the NHS, finding the workforce to fill these new and varied roles has proved challenging, but the success of PCNs and wider community services is crucial to the NHS’s planned recovery from COVID-19 – as well as its ability to deliver on the ongoing extra pressures of COVID-19-related services.
What does the solution look like?
In response, we have begun working on an innovative new service, which sees the staff bank model adapted to the needs of PCNs.
Hospital staff banks have been a feature of the NHS for decades. A bank provides temporary staff on a flexible basis wherever and whenever an NHS organisation needs them. Unlike an agency, banks are often run directly by the NHS organisation, or on their behalf by third parties, and when run efficiently, the cost to NHS organisations of using staff from their bank is considerably lower than utilising agency staff.
Banks are much less well developed in primary and community care, which leave these services more vulnerable to relying on agency staff whilst all the time piling even further pressure on already stretched clinical teams.
Given the inevitable workforce pressures that the whole Health Service will face post-COVID-19, we believe that the time to act is now if safe staffing across PCNs is to be maintained.
Within a typical ICS region, we estimate that a PCN-specific bank service could provide access to over 1,000 additional GPs, pharmacists, phlebotomists and associate nurse practitioners to supplement the primary and community care workforce. With the additional need to rapidly deploy COVID-19 vaccination services in primary care, putting ever great strain on practices, staff banks provide a promising answer for maintaining routine services.
You can read more about the insights and unique services which Acacium Group has produced here.