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Primary Care Networks

Since the NHS was created in 1948, the population has grown and people are living longer. Many people are living with long term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, or suffer with mental health issues and may need to access their local health services more often.To meet these needs, practices have begun working together and with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services in their local areas in primary care networks.Primary care networks build on the core of current primary care services and enable greater provision of proactive, personalised, coordinated and more integrated health and social care. Clinicians describe this as a change from creatively providing appointments to proactively care for the people and communities they serve. Where emerging primary care networks are in place in parts of the country, there are clear benefits for patients and clinicians.

How are PCNs being formed?

A new extension to the GP contract was recently introduced in NHS England’s five -year framework for GP services: the Network Contract (a Directed Enhanced Service) will go live from 1st July 2019 and will enable GP practices to play a leading role in every PCN.

A PCN must appoint a Clinical Director as its named, accountable leader, responsible for delivery, who will also provide strategic and clinical leadership to help support change across primary and community health services.

A PCN cannot exist without its constituent practices, but its membership and purpose should be much wider. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a clear ambition to deliver ‘triple integration’ of primary and specialist care, physical and mental health services, and health with social care.

All PCNs will have a Network Agreement which sets out its collective rights and obligations as well as how it will partner with non-GP practice stakeholders. It will also include a patient data-sharing requirement, in order to support safe and effective delivery of patient care. PCNs will be the foundation of all ICSs and every ICS will have a critical role in ensuring that PCNs work in an integrated way with other community staff and providers; collaboration arrangements with other local organisations will form a distinct part of every Network Agreement.

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