From the 1st of July 2019 all GP practices became a member of a primary care network or PCN. Technically a PCN is a group of practices who will work together to provide more access for patients and support the provision of proactive, coordinated care alongside other services such as mental health services and local authority.
Primary care networks were developed nationally as part of the NHS Long Term Plan and going forward, services can be designed and implemented to provide for the needs of community that the PCN covers. This collaborative working style also brings considerable funding to primary care services
Groups of practices will work closely together and smaller practices particularly will benefit from being part of a bigger network.
Each primary care network has a Clinical Director who will ensure that their network is providing services that improve the health and wellbeing of patients in their area.
One clinical director (Doncaster South PCN) is Ben Scott who is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and is a great ambassador for raising the profile of General Practice Nursing.
Ben said “I am absolutely delighted to have been selected as the Clinical Director for Doncaster South. The formation of primary care networks means that we can not only work much more closely together to provide high quality health and care services, but patients will clearly benefit too.”
“Primary care networks will empower patients to input more into the care they receive, as well as having their say on the range of services that are available across the network.”
“As well as helping to co-design and shape services on offer, patients will also have access to early morning, late evening and weekend appointments, with a range of health and care staff tailored to their needs. This ultimately means we will be able to provide the appropriate level of care, when and where people need it.”
Each area is different and it’s population will have different needs. Instead of a blanket offer of care across the borough, PCNs will be able to individualise their services to best meet the needs of their population.
Each PCN will have the ability to employ staff to work across all practices. For example, each PCN will be able to employ a Clinical Pharmacist who will support all practices in their network. Clinical pharmacists are increasingly working as part of general practice teams. They are highly qualified experts in medicines and can help people in a range of ways. This includes carrying out structured medication reviews for patients with ongoing health problems and improving patient safety, outcomes and value through a person-centred approach.
Clinical pharmacists work as part of the general practice team to improve value and outcomes from medicines and consult with and treat patients directly. This includes providing extra help to manage long-term conditions, advice for those on multiple medicines and better access to health checks. The role is pivotal to improving the quality of care and ensuring patient safety.
Having clinical pharmacists in GP practices means that GPs can focus their skills where they are most needed, for example on diagnosing and treating patients with more complex conditions. This helps GPs to manage the demands on their time.
Each PCN will also be able to have a dedicated Social Prescribing Lead which will ultimately help patient’s live fitter, healthier lives and combat anxiety, loneliness and depression.
One of the key reasons for investing in social prescribing is to provide help and support for people at the right time and right place, leading to a potential reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendances.
Primary care networks will continue to develop at pace and over the next four years, developing in partnership with patients, members of the public and local organisations. A number of additional roles will be added to each network; these include:
- First contact Physiotherapists
- Physician Associates
- Community paramedics