NHS England has today announced details of the primary care networks which were first set out in the NHS Long Term Plan earlier this month. Primary care will receive a boost of almost £1.8bn over the next five years, which will go towards funding almost 20,000 more healthcare professionals – including pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates, and social prescribing support workers – to improve access to services in local practices. NHS England set out plans for each primary care network to be led by a named clinical director, keeping clinical leadership at the heart of decision making.
“Today’s announcements outline a potentially very exciting future for primary care and one that will be changing rapidly over the next few months. Clinical commissioners will be instrumental in supporting the ongoing development of primary care networks working with colleagues to make these changes happen and get the best outcomes for patients. As a GP and a clinical commissioner, I am really pleased to see a cogent and substantial boost for PCNs and the potential they have to support resilience in primary care. It makes absolute sense to share and provide services over a larger footprint than just a single practice, this will lead to a better range of services delivering care closer to home.
“We know from CCGs that clinical leadership is crucial to successfully delivering for patients based on local need. Embedding that into planning and decisions at both the place – through the clinical commissioning function – and the neighbourhood level through PCNs should be hugely beneficial to delivering for local residents. So we are pleased to see that there will be a named accountable clinical director for each PCN – though they will need to know what this role involves. The strength of the PCNs will be in the range of skills and expertise brought by the team of primary care professionals, and PCNs will go some way to delivering integrated care that works for our populations.
“The funding to boost this work and stabilise the future of primary care is of course welcome, but we need to be careful that some of the timings and processes set out will not place undue pressure on the system, or undermine the efforts of clinical commissioners to drive this forward, as well as the broader transformation agenda at a time when they are also being asked to reduce their running costs by 20%.
“For some the clarity about PCNs will be welcome as they continue establishing them, whilst for others who have yet to start this process, achieving some of the requirements by July may be a difficult task. We hope that NHS England provide as much support as possible so that CCGs and practices don’t have to duplicate thinking or solutions.”
A letter, co-signed by NHS Clinical Commissioners, NHS Confederation and National Association of Primary Care, has been sent today to a wide range of representative bodies, inviting them to come together to explore practical steps to support the new networks. Find out more.
31 January 2019