Many who live with long term conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, or who have mental health issues, need to access local health and care services more often.

GP practices have begun working together and with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services, in their local areas. They are creating Primary Care Networks (PCNs) to help patients access the support and care they need.

Typically, PCN’s serve communities of around 30,000 to 50,000. They should be small enough to provide the personal care valued by both patients and GPs, but large enough to have impact and economies of scale through better collaboration between practices and others in the local health and social care system

For example, in Oxfordshire, there are plans for a PCN covering Bicester which will serve three GP practices with nearly 50,000 patients and a PCN for the Kidlington area serving four GP practices, covering just over 35,000 patients.

Benefits for patients

Having PCNs enables health and social care professionals to offer more pro-active, personalised, co-ordinated and joined-up health and social care for patients.

Key benefits include:-

  • Primary and community health services will be joined-up; providing a more efficient service to patients with the aim of improving their health and well-being. Having joined-up services will lead to better sharing of information, so people only have to tell their story once to those involved in their care.
  • Services can be offered across a network of practices that could not reasonably be offered via an individual practice. Examples of such services include embedding new care models for frailty, long term conditions such as diabetes and access to new healthcare professionals such as clinical pharmacists and social prescribers
  • Patients will be able to access a wider variety of health and social care services through PCNs and have options to access these services through more than one GP or health service
  • Smaller GP practices will be more sustainable as they can share resources through the wider PCN.
The Primary Care Network Model

The Long Term Plan describes PCNs as an essential building block of every Integrated Care System (ICS).

The Primary Care Network Model sets out to;

  • create stability
  • bring different roles into primary care
  • invest in primary care
  • bring about improvements in health and wellbeing, through better health and care and community leadership to support the change across primary and community health services

Stability:  Being part of a PCN may help avoid a practice having to close. The PCN model is a way of helping GP partnerships survive.

Different roles: It is easier to create more varied GP and nurse roles for 30-50,000 patients than 8,000.

Investment:  By creating a PCN as a dedicated joint investment and delivery vehicle, the profession is able to offer services that the NHS couldn’t reasonably ask of an individual practice.

Better health and care The PCN is the natural unit for integrating most NHS care. Collective general practice can become the footprint on which other NHS community-based services can then dock. And by serving a defined place, the PCN brings a clear geographical locus for improving health and wellbeing;

Community leadership PCN clinical directors will provide strategic and clinical leadership to help support change across primary and community health services.

Creating Primary Care Networks within BOB STP

From January 2019, Rachel Thompson, GPFV SRO & Transformation Lead for BOB STP, has been supporting delivery of PCNs across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West.

She has been working with local stakeholders including Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local GPs and other primary care services to explore how best to set up PCNs in the area.

As part of development of the PCNs, the three local CCGs have been holding engagement events with their GPs and Local Medical Councils (LMCs).

A Primary Care Network Event South East Event for the BOB and Frimley STPs was held in Reading to support the development of PCNs. Here is a presentation from the event

It has already been identified that PCNs in the BOB STP area are likely to be particularly beneficial for the sustainability of smaller rural practices in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The development of the PCNs is being funded by allocating additional per patient funding to GPs. In the BOB STP area the networks should be in place by April 2020. 

More information about Primary Care Networks

For more information about Primary Care Networks in the BOB STP area, please contact Rachel Thompson, GPFV Senior Responsible Owner and Transformation Lead, BOB STP

For an overview on Primary Care Networks;