Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire successfully set up acute respiratory infection (ARI) hubs in January, after GP Collaborative Board (GPCB) support enabled them to bid for national funding.
It followed an NHS England invitation for funding bids to set up ARI hubs, to address extra demand over the winter from patients with respiratory infections, including invasive Group A Strep in children.
The hub model was based on the Covid vaccination model of flexible care across PCNs, meaning patients are cared for in the community. This approach allowed additional appointments and clinical resources to be dedicated to patients’ respiratory illnesses, reducing the impact on core practice services over winter.
The mobilisation of general practice at scale across BNSSG, led by the GPCB, meant that BNSSG practices secured the full funding allocation for the area and established the hubs in a very short timeframe. This enabled 17,000 additional appointments to be offered between January and March.
Funding was distributed based on PCN size, meaning equitable distribution among all PCNs. In future bids, the GPCB will explore how funding can be used to support practices in areas of deprivation to reduce health inequalities across BNSSG.
An additional project from the same fund was run by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston (UHBW) children’s emergency department. The GPCB worked collaboratively with UHBW to share best practice; understand differing models of care across primary and secondary care in detail; and coordinate the projects to provide optimal benefit to patients.
Jim Hodgson, GPCB programme manager for urgent care, said “With the support of the GPCB, we managed to bring in a significant amount of funding into BNSSG to support practices and patients during the winter months. We overcame the challenges of tight deadlines and difficulties in the model to support practices to provide great care for their patients. We look forward to building on the learning and value of this winter’s model, taking the learning and insights to develop an even more effective response next winter.”