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It’s time for PCNs to shout about their successes, says Pulse PCN editor Victoria Vaughan
For the Government it might all be about access to appointments and an end to engaged tones at the 8am GP practice phone rush – as evidenced in the GP contract, the PCN DES and the GP recovery plan. But for PCNs and GPs it’s about the right access at the right time in the right place. And having been tasked to serve their populations, that’s exactly what PCNs are doing.
Hubs are the next step for many PCNs. Hubs in many and various forms, according to the PCN or patient need. For some it’s training hubs bringing together a group of professionals in one place to work and share learning. Or a way to bring care closer to patients through a new access point. Or it’s not a physical location but a way to bring together a service around a group of patients who are in need.
We focuses on three hubs in Liverpool, Lancashire and London in Pulse PCN’s Summer cover feature – all delivering primary care at scale in different ways. For Liverpool it’s a women’s health hub providing contraception. In Lancashire it’s increased access through a premises in a shopping centre. For London it’s a children’s clinic supported by secondary care paediatricians.
These examples demonstrate what primary care can do when given the chance to innovate with staff funded by the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS), secondary care colleagues and the incentive to work together through PCNs and the environment created during Covid.
There is a case for delivering primary care at scale through a network of networks or integrated neighbourhood teams. Many PCNs are already working towards this, but change can also come from clinicians sitting side by side and learning from each other as pointed out in Pulse PCN’s latest roundtable on structured medication reviews – where clinical pharmacists and clinical directors give their verdict on the service.
Of course, not all PCNs are equal but it’s vital to keep what’s good and build on it. So PCNs must share their work to ensure any changes do not undo the progress made in the last five years.
The GP recovery plan released in May says it will review the ‘successes and lessons learned’ from PCNs before the end of the five-year framework in 2024/25 and evaluate ARRS to assess its options from 2024/25 onwards.
What this means for the future of PCNs is unclear. But now is the time for PCNs to shout about their successes – just as Dr Priya Kumar did with her multi-generational household home visiting pilot, which we profile in our latest issue. Dr Kumar sent a tweet about the project that went viral and she’s now had interest from NHS England’s health inequalities lead Dr Bola Owolabi. This shows the appetite for primary care success stories – and the desire to do things differently for patients. PCNs should provide plenty more examples of their innovation so the Government cannot fail to notice them. We’re here to feature them.
When the review comes, the Government and NHS England would be wise not to deploy an engaged tone.