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An Introduction to the System Development Funding (SDF) for Primary Care Network Leaders (2022)

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

This week's blog is for Primary Care Network Managers, Clinical Directors, and Finance Leads.

If you are reading the new Autumn/Winter Updates for the first time, grab a drink, turn off your notifications, ask not to be disturbed and have a notepad ready! 🙂.


On the 26th of September, NHS England released a letter and guidance document titled Supporting general practice, primary care networks and their teams through winter and beyond, detailing plans for:

  • Additional resources and funding

  • Suspension of non-essential work for Primary Care Networks

  • Amendments to the Impact and Investment Fund

My initial summary can be found here .

Included in this document are details regarding the System Development Funding which will serve as the focus for this blog which will cover;

1. What is the System Development Fund (AKA the SDF)

2. The additional funding streams PCNs will be receiving and responsible for

3. The nine pots of funding PCNs are responsible for


In this blog, I chose a few highlights to focus on. Please read the full document found here for further details.

To support this blog, you will need to access the following resources:


What is the System Development Fund (SDF)?

The NHSE Primary Care Group provides Primary Care ‘System Development Funding’ (SDF) to health systems each year under the NHS Long Term Plan.

In 2022/23, the formation of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and the publication of the Fuller Stocktake report present the infrastructure to support Primary Care by taking a system-led approach that moves beyond PCNs as a fundamental building block for Primary Care into Integrated Neighbourhood Teams (INTs).


What are the overall objectives of the funding?

To retain and expand staff capacity to;

  1. Support staff skills and capabilities

  2. Improve ways of working, reduce unwarranted variation and increase operational efficiency

  3. Drive integrated working


What funding streams will Primary Care Networks directly receive?

PCNs are set to directly receive:

GP Transformation Support

The GP Transformational Support Fund which has been created by combining the previous two SDF funded programmes within Primary Care that include Digital First and PCN Development funding.


When it comes to the GP transformation activity and support, the expectation is that it is not spent directly on equipment, software or licenses but rather on supporting practice and PCN teams to implement the change activity needed to embed and get the best impact from new ways of working.

Some examples of specific interventions are provided below:

  • Embedding triage processes supported by digital access routes,

  • Rolling out of cloud-based telephone systems

  • Deployment and use of Business Intelligence tools to aid understanding of demand and capacity

  • Use technology to support at-scale working

More examples of how we can use the funding can be found on page 5.

🎯 It pays to be proactive and have a good working relationship with your ICB team if you are unsure of what is in and out of scope when submitting your bid.

In some areas, bids have already been submitted and we have received helpful feedback on what we need to alter and clarify.

Workforce funding

The Primary Care SDF is available for nine workforce programmes: (Please note, we have tried our best to link to the most up-to-date resources)

When it comes to workforce funding, the only direct funding stream PCNs will receive is the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS);

A reminder of the intention of the Additional Role Reimbursement Scheme

The Network Contract DES went live on 1 July 2019. Under the Network Contract DES, funding was made available to PCNs through a new Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (otherwise known as the ARRS) to recruit up to an additional 20,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) over the next five years.

The intention of the scheme is to grow additional capacity through new roles and, by doing so, help to solve the workforce shortage in general practice. It is not to fill existing vacancies or subsidise the costs of employing people who are already working in primary care. PCNs can use their additional reimbursement scheme to recruit/commission the following roles:

  1. Clinical Pharmacist

  2. Pharmacy Technicians

  3. Social Prescribing Link Workers

  4. Health and Wellbeing Coach

  5. Care Coordinator

  6. Physician Associates

  7. First Contact Physiotherapists

  8. Dietitians

  9. Podiatrists

  10. Occupational Therapists

  11. Nursing Associate

  12. Trainee Nursing Associate (TNA)

  13. Paramedics

  14. Mental Health Practitioners

  15. Advanced Practitioners

  16. General Practice Assistants

  17. Digital and Transformation Lead

The GP Assistant and the Digital Transformation Lead were added to the scheme on 26th September 2022. Please click here for more details.

🎯When it comes to the 8 other funding streams, this is where having a good and proactive relationship with your local Training Hub who will be able to support and signpost you to a lot of the mentioned schemes above.

Things to be aware of, but there is nothing for you to do

Depending on your locality, population needs and where it has been agreed, some spending will take place at your NHSE regional level, so funding allocation and workstreams may be different to your peers working in different parts of the country.

The rollout and uptake of online consultation systems in general practice is also part of the SDF and was fully distributed in Q1 to systems (not a direct payment to PCNs) as a single payment on a fair shares/population basis.


What funding streams will PCNs be managing in Q3 as a result of the newly released SDF, DES and IIF updates?

PCNs will have the following additional funding workstreams to account for and manage.

  • PCN Support Payment - This is what the funding from the deferred and suspended Impact and Investment Fund indicators would have generated. This will now come to the PCN in the form of a PCN Support Payment to be paid monthly and based on the PCN’s adjusted population. This payment is to be reinvested into the network in the form of increasing clinical capacity.

  • GP Transformation Funding – As outlined in the SDF and in this blog.

The business-as-usual funding streams can be found below.

  • Clinical Director Payment

  • Core PCN Funding

  • Enhanced Access Payment

  • Care Home Premium

  • PCN Leadership and Management

  • Impact and Investment funding

  • Additional Reimbursement Scheme

  • Covid payments (if you are running this programme)


About the Author

I'm Tara; I am the founder of THC Primary Care, an award-winning healthcare consultancy specialising in Primary Care Network Management and the host of the Business of Healthcare Podcast, where we have now published over 200 episodes. I have over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sectors, and I have supported over 50 PCNs by providing interim management, training and consultancy. I have managed teams across multiple sites and countries; I have an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, I'm published in the London Journal of Primary Care, and I am the author of over 250 blogs. I have 3 children. My eldest has Asthma, my middle child has a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome, and my youngest daughter has Type 1 Diabetes, so outside of work, healthcare plays a huge role in my life.


Starting on 31st October 2022

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