Primary care networks ‘not a one-size-fits-all’ solution, RCGP warns

The RCGP has warned that, while primary care networks will certainly have benefits, they are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution

A new initiative will see GP practices working more closely together, according to The Guardian.

Around 7,000 surgeries in England have joined forces to create over 1,200 primary care networks (PCNs), allowing them to deliver a wider range of care services and longer appointments.

Surgeries will recruit pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing link workers into their teams, freeing GPs up to focus on the most vulnerable patients.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Strengthening general practice is a central part of the long-term plan, and primary care networks [PCN] have the potential to bring about the biggest improvement for a generation.

“As the PCNs get up and running in the coming weeks and months, patients will begin to see the benefits, freeing up GPs to focus on the sickest.

“This new way of working allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice, while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs said that, while PCNs have undeniable benefits, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the mounting pressures of general practice.

She said: “Primary Care Networks are essentially groups of practices working together and aiming to work with other agencies to deliver improved care for patients – and collaboration can have great benefits, particularly at a time when general practice is facing such intense resource and workforce pressures.

“Working in networks should allow general practices to pool clinical and administrative resources, as well as making it easier to introduce truly multi-disciplinary teams – ultimately it should help to free up GPs’ time to spend with patients who need us most, and improve access to more integrated services for our communities.

“However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to resolving the pressures facing general practice, and while structural reorganisation like this can be positive for surgeries with sufficient resources, others will need a lot more support and time to develop.

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“It is also essential that, for primary care networks to succeed, they are owned and designed by GPs and our teams – not subject to top-down imposition from commissioners.

“We are part of our local communities and are best-placed to understand our patient populations and their needs.

“As well as embracing new models of care, we need to see the other promises laid out in the NHS Long-Term Plan delivered in full, and more detail about how the aspirations in the interim People Plan will be achieved, as soon as possible.”

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