Primary Care and Practice Management : 2021 in Review

As we approach the most wonderful time of the year, here at FPM Group we’re in a reflective mood. There’s been a lot to reflect on this year, after all! We’ve taken a trip down memory lane and looked at some of the major news stories that broke during 2021, and how we covered them on our blog.

After a distinctly low-key, cautious Christmas 2020, January 2021 began with the huge push to vaccinate 13.9 million people in high-priority groups by February 15th. Our HR advisor Sam Rigby tackled some common vaccine-related questions affecting many practices, including whether a practice can dismiss an employee who refuses to have the vaccine, and how to deal with difficult employees at a time when everyone is feeling the strain.

The vaccination deadline was eventually met thanks to a huge national effort, and vaccinations continued apace throughout March and onwards. March also saw an article from our friendly financial advisor Phil Harnby looking at payment advice for GP practices around the vaccine rollout.

In April, the NHS achieved its goal of launching Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) in the final 13 areas of England from April 1, 2021 - meeting a key commitment set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. We explored what every GP practice should know about the new ICSs.

In May, we published the first results from our Salary Survey, which showed that the GP workforce grew by 0.4% in the year to March 2021, but the number of GP partners has dropped and the workforce is not growing quickly enough to meet demand. May also saw the controversial letter from Dr. Nikki Kanani at NHS England telling GP practices to offer face-to-face appointments from 17th May, despite the fact that most already had been. The CQC also made the headlines as they launched their new strategy focussed on increased collaboration and smarter working practices, though it was soon criticised for perceived failings in some areas.

June saw the deadline arrive for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), and the way we employ EU/ EEA citizens changed from this date. HR specialist Sam Rigby looked at what the EUSS meant for GP practices and employers.

July saw the appointment of Amanda Pritchard as the new NHS England Chief Executive, former boss of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust in London and the first woman to lead the NHS. There was also more concerning news about the rise in abusive behaviour from some patients, and the toll this was taking on many front-line service staff. Some even reported that GPs were being threatened with legal action if they asked patients to wear masks.

In August, news broke that NHS England have already classed four new Integrated Care Systems as being in need of "intensive mandated support" under their new Recovery Support Programme. FPM also looked at an increasingly common issue in GP surgeries to do with the law and ethics of recording patient interactions—a particularly hot topic given the rise in online and telephone appointments.

September saw the launch of the ever-popular FPM Salary Survey 2021. Also in September, the NHS rolled out the COVID-19 jab to school children aged 12 to 15, as part of the biggest vaccination drive in health service history.

October was the month when the government published their much-criticised plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice (which we unpicked on our blog), containing information on what local bodies would be expected to do over the coming months. By the end of the month, the government expected all practices to have completed a review of the balance they provide between remote and face-to-face consultations. This month also saw two bodies launched which replace Public Health England— the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), previously known as the Office for Health Promotion, and the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) which will lead on planning for and responding to infectious diseases.

In November, it was announced that Health Education England will be merged with NHS England, leading to concerns around their independence and the funding for future training development and whether this would impact the government's recruitment targets.

Which brings us to December, when—despite the festivities and approaching holidays—there is no let-up in the workload and an increasingly changing government plan which has been up-ended with the news of a new variant in the UK. At times like this, we all need to take time for our mental health. Throughout the year, to counteract the never-ending stress and constant challenges, our mindfulness expert Charan Sarai has been giving her tips for spreading kindness, thinking positively and building resilience.

In the coming year we’ll continue to keep you up to date and abreast of news and developments in the world of primary care. Thanks for reading and commenting on our blog as always—have a wonderful Christmas and we’ll see you in the new year!


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