Primary Care Networks

Frequently asked questions about Primary Care Networks (PCN)

What is a Primary Care Network (PCN)?

A primary care network consists of groups of general practices working together with a range of local providers, including across primary care, community services, social care and the voluntary sector, to offer more personalised, coordinated health and social care to their local populations. Networks would normally be based around natural local communities typically serving populations of at least 30,000 and not tending to exceed 50,000. They should be small enough to maintain the traditional strengths of general practice but at the same time large enough to provide resilience and support the development of integrated teams.

What are PCNs designed to do?

Primary care networks will provide proactive, coordinated care to their local populations, in different ways to match different people’s needs, with a strong focus on prevention and personalised care. This means supporting patients to make informed decisions about their own health and care and connecting them to a wide range of statutory and voluntary services to ensure they can access the care they need first time. Networks will also have a greater focus on population health and addressing health inequalities in their local area, using data and technology to inform the delivery of population scale care models. As an example, this will be supported by the introduction of a new Tackling Neighbourhood Inequalities Service Specification to be delivered by PCNs signed up to the Network Contract DES from 2021/22.

Primary care networks will also help ensure that the NHS designs support and services to get the best possible value out of their funding for their local communities.

What are the core characteristics of a PCN?

The core characteristics of a PCN are:

  • Practices working together and with other local health and care providers, around natural local communities that geographically make sense, to provide coordinated care through integrated teams
  • Typically a defined patient population of at least 30,000 and tend not to exceed 50,000
  • Providing care in different ways to match different people’s needs, including flexible access to advice and support for ‘healthier’ sections of the population, and joined up care for those with complex conditions
  • Focus on prevention and personalised care, supporting patients to make informed decisions about their care and look after their own health, by connecting them with the full range of statutory and voluntary services
  • Use of data and technology to assess population health needs and health inequalities; to inform, design and deliver practice and populations scale care models; support clinical decision making, and monitor performance and variation to inform continuous service improvement
  • Making best use of collective resources across practices and other local health and care providers to allow greater resilience, more sustainable workload and access to a larger range of professional groups.

Downloads

NHS England has produced two documents with answers to a number of frequently asked questions about Primary Care Networks.

The first document focuses on topics including general background, working arrangements, funding and contracting, PCN set up and governance, PCN development support, wider system and future planning and further information/next steps. The second document focuses topics including PCN set up and governance, further detail on funding and contracting, federations, PCN development support and estates.

If your question is not listed below, you can send this to the Primary Care Network national team (england.pcn@nhs.net) who will share a response.

Video explaining Primary Care Networks

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