There will be ‘no additional’ winter funding to support practices over the next few months amid a ‘tight’ financial situation, NHS England’s primary care chief has said.NHS England national director for primary care Dr Amanda Doyle also admitted that the £37m already offered to practices is ‘not a huge amount of money’ but that she wanted GPs to have access to the money in advance.

Speaking at the Best Practice conference in Birmingham last week, Dr Doyle dashed any hopes that GPs could see further funding but said that ‘absolutely’ recognises ‘there is an issue’.

She said: ‘It is what it is, there’s no access to additional funding coming or anything. The financial situation this winter is quite tight.

‘However, what we are trying to do is make sure that the funding that is available, we use it in the way that’s most effectively going to help over winter because we do recognise there’s an issue, we absolutely do.’

The previously announced winter fund of £37m – repurposed from four PCN incentive scheme indicators that were deferred or scrapped – was designed to anticipate existing funding to practices, she added.

Dr Doyle said: ‘If we’d left that money attached to the IIF indicators it was attached to, practices would have been paid that money dependent on achievement of those indicators next July.

‘I wanted to say it’s more of a priority for practices to have that money over winter, to use it to prioritise patients trying to access us over winter, because we know that need will go on, we know we’ve got Covid and flu and all those other things.’

She added: ‘It’s not a huge amount of money, but we wanted practices to have it now to use on staff to help with capacity over winter.’

And Dr Doyle stressed that ‘there is also the system development fund that we’ve allocated out to the ICBs’.

She told delegates: ‘We know that the problems are often different in different places.

‘So the checklists that ICBs are doing are about saying what’s actually the difficulty, what can we support with for each PCN or practice? And how can we best target the system development funding that we do have to where it’s needed?’

Dr Doyle was responding to a question from an audience member who asked what ‘the plan’ is for the winter.

The practice manager and PCN manager said: ‘If the only winter support fund is £37m taken out of money that we’re already going to be made to earn, we are going to be woefully under-resourced this winter.

‘We are worried about the next six months.’

Last month, NHS England asked integrated care boards (ICBs) to identify where to allocate potential winter support funding to GP practices and PCNs in their area, if such funding were to materialise.

At the time, NHS England said it was looking to ‘identify where additional capital should be made available via ICBs later in the year’ for GP resilience over the winter, ‘should it be made available’.

It also announced that it would immediately retire or defer until next year four investment and impact fund (IIF) indicators worth £37m and reallocate this funding to PCNs via a monthly support payment from October to March.

However, three of the indicators had already commenced in April so PCNs had already completed six months’ worth of work against them. Since performance is assessed at the end of the financial year, PCNs hadn’t received any payments for work already completed against the indicators.

Meanwhile, Dr Doyle also told delegates at the conference that general practice should move to a less target-based contract and NHS England is trying to be ‘less micromanaging’.