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Primary Care Networks

What are Primary Care Networks?

Primary care networks (PCNs) form a key building block of the NHS long-term plan.

Bringing general practices (GPs) 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, and to better manage financial and estates pressures.

It also enables practices to provide a wider range of services to patients and to more easily integrate with the wider health and care system.

While GPs 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 1st July 2019, GP practices in Harrow have come together within local Primary Care Networks, each covering tens of thousands of patients.

What difference will primary care networks make for patients? They have the potential to improve access, extend the range of services available, and help to integrate primary care with wider health and community services (this is known as ‘integrated care’).

Previous research on the impact of larger scale general practice on patient experience found mixed views. While some patients prioritise access above all else and are interested in the potential of larger partnerships to improve that access, others are more concerned about continuity and trusting relationships and are concerned these may be lost.

Practices will need to work with their patient participation groups and the wider local community if they are going to address the needs of their local population.

Find out more in our fact sheet below, which contains a list of local PCNs and their practices.

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What are Primary Care Networks