GP Federations and PCNs – how they fit into the current primary care landscape?

There was an interesting quote from BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey last week on PCNs and the roles of federations. I’m sure many of you will have had your views on this, but certainly within the five year GP contract there wasn’t much reference about the future of federations or how PCNs and federations will coexist.

As you know, PCNs aren’t just the latest trend or buzzword in primary healthcare. They are going to be fundamental in the delivery of primary care services in the future, with a key focus on collaboration and working at scale.

But how to they fit into the current primary care landscape?

I expect (should that be hope?) that there’s going to be more detail and clarity when NHS England and GPC England jointly issue the Network Agreement and 2019/20 Network Contract DES, due by 29 March.

However, Dr Richard Vautrey’s view was very interesting. The interview identified that in many areas, federations would be too big to be regarded as one primary care network but that networks will still need to “work at wider federation level for the delivery of some services where it makes sense to operate at that scale.”

The organisational, legal and operation form of both PCNs and federations is something the ATSCALE team have been working on over the past couple of weeks. We have identified the widest range of legal forms such arrangements could take along with the pros and cons of each. We have developed a PCN Accelerator (PCNA) that allows practices, PCNs, federations and CCGs to identify the issues that need to be tackled when considering the best way to set these organisations up. And to provide assurance to practices and commissioners that there has been due attention paid to both formation and operation.

In the same article, NHS England’s acting director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani, also spoke about the difference between federations and primary care networks, adding: “Typically a patch would have a CCG, a federation and three or four primary care networks – maybe five. And the federation would be there to help support those networks.”

Our PCN Accelerator takes into account the various strata in primary care including PCNs and federations. Quite simply this new future demonstrates just how much the primary care sector will need to demonstrate new ways of working together. PCNs need to develop swiftly and robustly to respond to the NHS direction of travel, commissioning arrangements and contractual form. This can’t be done in isolation.

As I said in a previous blog, collaboration is key and there is a need for GP practices to be proactive in formation of PCNs, as well as acknowledging the important role of GP federations to support the formation and operation of PCNs.

With the increasing demand placed on CCG’s, federations and GP practices to form PCNs, there has never been a greater need for an experienced team to support your delivery. We only work in primary care and we only work on at scale projects, whether they are collaborations, mergers or PCNs.

If you like more information on how we could support your organisation please get in touch.