Top tips for Primary Care Networks

I was recently asked what advice I’d give to organisations involved in the development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs).  I’ll add in an early disclaimer here that there is no magic bullet!  But what I do hope is that my experience in primary care and commissioning gives a useful and potentially different insight to support those of you currently developing or supporting a PCN, wherever you may be on your journey.

Where are we now?

With less than a week until GP practices must ‘complete and return’ their Primary Care Network (PCN) registrations to sign up to the network contract DES, I think challenging is a good way to describe the process.  Developing new ways of workings, managing change, collaboration and tight timescales are never easy asks.  Couple these with the well reported excessive pressures in day to day general practice and it’s a wonder that PCNs are as progressed as they are.  They do say if you want anything done you should ask a busy person!

So far, my experience of PCNs has been wading through the guidance, getting involved in the discussions with practices about how they are planning to configure their PCN, and liaising with the LMC in their driving of the local arrangements.  I have also been ensuring that system partners are engaged in the conversations and understand the criteria for PCN approval.  There’s a lot of people to bring along in this change.

My advice

But what advice would I give?  Here’s some top tips for each organisation type that I believe is a key player in the development of PCNs:

CCGs and STPs – let the PCNs land, embed and have a chance to be successful before the ask upon them gets too great.

GP federations – Facilitate your members to help them to keep ownership local.  Look for opportunities to bring PCNs together to support wider population coverage and business gain.   Invest in your members to enable them to focus on PCN implementation.

GP practices – Get involved, make sure your voice is heard, don’t have this “done to you or around you”, understand the rules of engagement, recognise that this is a new collective vehicle that needs to collective input to thrive.  The benefits will come from allowing real collaboration to be given a chance to improve workload and workforce issues.

And finally…PCNs – Know the rules, listen and engage, and don’t try to be the answer to everyone’s problems.

If you have any questions about how we could provide support to you through your own PCN journey please get in touch.

Alice Benton is a member of the At Scale team and has almost 18 years NHS commissioning experience, predominantly in primary care.