Community Network

Primary Care Networks: a quiet revolution

26 / 07 / 2019

Primary care networks (PCNs) were the big innovation in the NHS England long term plan when  it was published at the start of 2019. 

The purpose of PCNs is clear in the title of the first section of Chapter 1, ”we will finally dissolve the historic divide between primary and community health services”, and they have been designed to help achieve a series of goals from addressing profound challenges in general practice to acting as the building blocks on which integrated care services (ICSs) will function successfully.

While there is recognition in NHS England/Improvement that PCNs are not the answer to everything, and can’t be given too much to do too quickly, it is clear that they are now expected to be the principal mechanism to achieve changes in how neighbourhood-level health and care will be delivered across the country.

Once the dust settles, there will be roughly 1,260 PCNs across the country.

Given that PCNs aim to manifestly impact the way that the whole population experiences local health and care delivery over the next five years, you would be forgiven for thinking this revolution has been relatively quiet to date. As the speed of change ramps up over coming months however, it is unlikely to stay that way.

This briefing paper sets out in 11 chapters the essential knowledge that providers should have  on PCNs, including:

  • Where PCNs came from.
  • What PCNs are (and what they’re not).
  • What outcomes PCNs will deliver.
  • What has it taken to get PCNs set up.
  • What role do clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local medical committees (LMCs) have.
  • What new funding and support is available.
  • What the emerging picture is.
  • What the next nine months holds.
  • What happens after April 2020.
  • Given all of that, what role should providers play around PCNs. 
  • Case studies and examples of supporting offers.

The paper draws on published guidance, discussions with PCN leaders in NHS England/ Improvement and discussions with providers of community services (including acute trusts,  mental health trusts, integrated trusts community trusts and large-scale social enterprise community providers). Each chapter highlights what is most relevant to help those providers  to engage with PCNs.

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