What are primary care networks?
Primary care networks (PCNs) form a key building block of the NHS long-term plan. Bringing general practices together to work at scale has been a policy priority for some years for a range of reasons, including improving the ability of practices to recruit and retain staff; to manage financial and estates pressures, to provide a wider range of services to patients and to more easily integrate with the wider health and care system.
While GP practices have been finding different ways of working together over many years – for example in super-partnerships, federations, clusters and networks – the NHS long-term plan and the new five-year framework for the GP contract, published in January 2019, put a more formal structure around this way of working, but without creating new statutory bodies.
Since 1 July 2019, all except a handful of GP practices in England have come together in around 1,300 geographical networks covering populations of approximately 30–50,000 patients. This size is consistent with the size of primary care homes, which exist in many places in the country, but much smaller than most GP federations. Around 50 networks, usually in very rural areas, will cover a population of less than 30,000, but most are bigger than 50,000.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of GP practices working closely together. Their focus is often on preventing ill health and tackling health inequalities. PCNs do this by improving access to social prescribing programmes, mental health support, physiotherapy and other services. The Newcastle Outer West PCN includes:
We are working together to make it easier for us to have many new types of staff join us such as Pharmacists, Social Prescribers, Dieticians and Councellors (to name a few) all working to help you in areas that are important to you, such as your mental and physical health, as well as support for housing and money concerns etc.
We are also working more closely with the council, voluntary organisations and the local hospitals to try and join up all the different organisations in Newcastle who have input into improving your lives.
A GP and the Practice Manager meet each month to plan and develop the network and our main focus is on the needs of our communities.
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