How can I access support?
The BMA recently released guidance describing various funding and support streams available to general practice. The first thing to do is consider what you actually need. In England, most of the funding is being allocated through CCGs, so contact them to see if they can help.
Dr Dean Eggitt, medical secretary at Doncaster LMC, told Pulse that he recommends all practices have a one-sheet business plan that they send to the CCG all year to access whatever funding is available, particularly around winter when funding streams tend to open up.
This should state specific examples of what you want, which could range from new hardware (like a spare ECG machine) to business training for the practice manager. The business plan should include: the problem, the potential solution, how much it’s going to cost, and how you’re going to prove that it had a positive outcome, with facts and figures to back up your argument.
What support is there if the practice is short of doctors?
If you are concerned about potential retirements, the Retained Doctor Scheme  helps support GPs who might otherwise leave general practice, but can’t work more than four sessions a week. It was updated in July 2016 to offer more money, which is available until June 2019. The enhanced payment is open to current retained GP (RGPs), GPs who are not currently practising and any GPs who can provide their GP dean with ‘compelling evidence that they are intending to leave practice and would do so without this scheme’. GPs must be on the performers list and intend to work less than 208 sessions a year.
The GP will be paid a bursary of up to £4,000, depending on the number of sessions they work and the practice can claim £76.92 per session that the RGP works (previously this was £59.18). To apply, download a form from your local deanery and send it to the local GP dean, who manages the scheme.
There is also a Clinical Pharmacists in General Practice scheme  to subsidise (but not fully fund) practice pharmacists, a follow-up to last year’s pilot. Details are expected before the end of the year, but the aim is one pharmacist per 30,000 of population and groups of practices will be expected to work together on bids. The GPC recommends starting to put together a bid now, as last year the turnaround from announcing the pilot to the closing date for applications was very short.
Can I get training for my staff?
There is £45m available over five years to train reception and clerical staff to carry out active signposting and managing clinical correspondence. This will be allocated to CCGs in autumn on a per-head-of-population basis to hand out appropriately.
There are 300 free places for the next three years to train individuals in leadership as part of a general practice improvement leader programme. The deadline for expressions of interest has now closed, but there may be more places available.
Support for practice managers and practice nurse development has been promised, but there are no details yet.
Is there any support I can access if my practice is struggling?
NHS England has announced various funding streams to help practices. The General Practice Resilience Programme  is a four year £40m fund. Local teams (the CCG in most areas) will offer practices items from a ‘menu of support’ that includes: coaching or mentorship, support with workforce issues and change management and improvement support.
Local teams will identify eligible practices using local intelligence as well as some national criteria, which include CQC rating, low QOF achievement, lack of staff and support from the LMC, CCG or NHS England local area team (as this indicates that external bodies have significant concerns about the practice). Local teams should have identified practices for the £16m 2016/17 money by 18 October, but it is still worth sending a business plan to them in case there is flexibility in the deadline, or for future years of the GP resilience programme.
There is also the £10m Vulnerable Practices Fund . The deadline for areas to agree support for practices is 31 October, but some teams may not have allocated funding and not all the money has reached practices. Contact your CCG to find out if there is any funding available and if not you may be able to access the GP resilience programme.
What support is there if I’m struggling mentally?
From January 2017 GPs will be able to access a free confidential service for psychotherapy assessment and treatment. GPs will be able to access face-to-face support across 13 regions in England for general psychiatric assessment and treatment, addiction related health problems and one-to-one and group psychotherapy sessions, run by the Hurley Clinic. You will be able to access this through a confidential national self-referral phone line, website and app.
If you need support now and can travel to London, you can get treatment at the practitioners health programme there.
What support is there outside England?
Support outside England varies depending on region, so contact your local health board to see what support is available for you. In Wales, some health boards have employed additional doctors to plug gaps, in Scotland, some NHS boards offer direct support to practices, and in northern Ireland there is help on a case-by-case basis, but it will all vary depending on area.