From this week groups of GP practices across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are formally committing to working together so that they can better serve patients.
They will be joining together as Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – with each PCN typically serving 30,000 – 50,000 patients.
Working together brings economies of scale and potentially allows a wider range of services to be offered.
Dr Asif Ahmed, GP in Staffordshire and Clinical Director for Stafford South PCN said: “PCNs have been mandated by the NHS Long Term Plan, however they provide an invaluable opportunity for practices to work together to deliver healthcare in a new combined way that will benefit all of the population. We have worked hard and negotiated with our practices to ensure that there is 100 per cent coverage for our patients to have access to a PCN.
“The PCNs are built on existing relationships between practices, and some relationships were further developed than others. The PCNs will work together to build these relationships and develop these PCNs into functional groups that will provide benefits to the patients that we hope will be realised and achieved very soon.”
Some of the benefits PCNs are hoped to deliver are:
- Providing patients with better access to clinical services
- Wider range of services available to patients closer to home
- Reduced need to go to hospitals to obtain the care they need
- Longer opening hours for patient access
- A wider range of clinical and associated staff – allowing patients to see the right person for the right reason locally
- Sharing of practice staff, ideas and concepts that will support practices in continuing to deliver a high level of care
- Combined IT to make care more seamless.
Dr Ahmed added: “This combined model will mean the practice groups are large enough to be resilient, through shared workforce and other practice functions, but allows us to remain small enough to continue that personalised care delivered by general practice.”
“It is an exciting and ambitious plan that could mean eventually that patients have the opportunity to have their specific treatment or therapy locally at a nearby practice or get an appointment at a neighbouring practice if their own is closed or under pressure; it even means that the specialist skills within certain practices can be shared with patients of practices within their PCN.”
“The PCNs also offer the possibility that through collaborative working they will support general practice and allow general practice to do more of what general practice is best at, whilst working to safeguard general practice from the potential losses it has seen in recent years.
“In summary, the PCNs will grow in their own ways and develop into entities that will help support and underpin general practice to deliver improved patient care and allow practices to work in a way that will give them more resilience, whilst also providing a wider range of local services and care closer to home – improving access to care and improving the experience of care that patients receive.”