Giving more funding, support and autonomy to primary care networks (PCNs) to support the health and wellbeing of their local communities will be key to reinvigorating the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan in the wake of the pandemic.
Nearly 5.3m people are now awaiting elective treatment and the pandemic has led to increased and more complex demand on all NHS services, so ‘out of hospital’ care will become more important than ever.
A new report, PCNs: Two Years On, by the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network highlights how PCNs have risen to the challenges and demands brought about by Covid-19, galvanising their communities to deliver the most successful vaccination programme in the history of the health service. It shows that they have also simultaneously pressed ahead, despite huge workload pressures, to build stakeholder relationships and develop the primary care workforce.
However, the effects of the pandemic on communities have meant that the scale of PCN challenges is greater than first envisaged when they were established two years ago, leading to PCNs’ existing and planned work programmes being curtailed and derailed. As Integrated Care Systems are expected to become statutory from April 2022 it will be also be vital that the right support, space and infrastructure are given for PCNs to effectively manage local population health.
The report, based on a series of engagement sessions hosted by the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network, and a survey of more than 150 PCN clinical directors and managers, sets out key principles to guide the development of PCNs.
Commenting on the report Dr Pramit Patel, chair of the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network and Clinical Director of Care Collaborative PCN in Surrey, said:
“From the outset PCNs have had high ambitions to improve and expand the range of patient services for their communities, and despite the most difficult of circumstances they have faced over the last year and a half, they are rising to the challenge.
“Colleagues are clear there is a way to go, but with the right resource and space, PCNs can be invaluable in getting the NHS Long Term Plan back on track in driving forward expanded and improved services for patients, enhancing out of hospital care and supporting people to stay well in the community.
“With a sizeable elective treatment backlog and the population’s health having taken a hit during the pandemic, this agenda is more important than ever.”