This site is intended for health professionals only

This is a significant step for PCNs

Short-term boost

The future of PCNs is impossible to predict. On the one hand, you have the BMA that is increasingly anti-PCN, who are advising practices to consider withdrawing from the DES. And it seems as though the practices themselves are willing to withdraw too.

But on the other, you have NHS England, who are determined for the project to succeed, and any extra money going into general practice will be going into networks. The level of funding for extended hours work that they eventually put in wasn’t guaranteed, yet they did stump it up. It seems clear to me that NHS England will find money where PCNs are concerned.

It’s not quite a case of the immovable object and the irresistible force, but there are definitely two competing interests here. So maybe we need to look at the networks themselves to see whether there is a future in PCNs.

Today’s story that PCNs are starting to employ salaried GPs to work across their member practices therefore seems significant to me. This is another step to networks taking over as the main providers of primary care (much to the delight of NHS England, I am sure). This is way beyond hiring staff through the additional roles reimbursement scheme, which was funded by NHS England; this is showing these networks are all in on the project.

It’s probably correct to say that the networks hiring GPs are probably those who are most invested in the project. But with perennial workforce problems, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see more practices sharing GPs with their networks.

Personally, I am still unsure about networks as a concept. I am not sure whether GP practices should be incentivised into one way of working, but I do see the benefit of greater cooperation. However, my views are pretty irrelevant. What matters is whether practices want to continue with them – and today’s news makes it all the more likely that they are here to stay.  

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Vinci Ho 23 March, 2022 12:50 pm

As I wrote under the article , ‘ PCNs are starting to employ salaried GPs to work across their member practices’ , there is a caveat that PCNs used IIF money for employing salaried GPs to help their workload , bypassing the concept of IIF is associated with a new QOF system and the money is only for the workload generated . Yes , one can also argue that ARRS could be spent to employ additional roles to achieve these new targets . But I think there is already too much bureaucracy as compared to funding individual practices directly on the traditional GMS contract , arguably the most cost-effective to me . ARRS remains an inflexible stream of funding.
The bottom line argument is , one size should not fit all , just like the case of asking hospitals to employ all GPs .
But obviously, the government only wants one size . 👿

Vinci Ho 23 March, 2022 12:59 pm

And one last thing that must be pointed out here is , PCN DES was never written to support mass Covid vaccination campaigns which had skewed the original ideology of PCN .
The simple question is , is PCN there to help us , GP, or government and NHSE/I instead ?
This is a question from a PCN-sceptic( from day one) and a recently resigned PCN Clinical Director 😑

Patrufini Duffy 23 March, 2022 2:20 pm

You don’t need a PCN to hire a locum for a patch of area, that can be done at a borough level centrally. This isn’t innovation, all you’ve done is create a fake market and fake transferance of trivial work.

Gareth Evans 25 March, 2022 9:58 am

We had a pooled GP workforce to see patients for GPAF in the days of GP Federations.

Nothing new to see here. Move on.

HAZIM AHMAD 26 March, 2022 7:17 pm

Does the pcn represent good value for money for the NHS. Apart from additional roles helping with patients care. I see pcns also appointing managers, accountants and lawyers to oversee the process.