Primary care networks need greater flexibility and freedom so they can work to best deliver their own local community needs, according to a study of their effectiveness.
The NHS Confederation’s PCN Network has reviewed the first year of primary care networks and looked ahead to the next 12 months and says while PCNs have been beneficial for local populations, a better balance is needed to fulfil contractual requirements and to do what is best for their patients. They also need more time to develop local relationships. The Network adds that PCNs need greater flexibility in how they operate and more support for clinical directors.
Ruth Rankine, director of the PCN Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “The last 12 months have presented a real mix of opportunities and challenges for PCNs. The extent to which they have progressed has been contingent on good leadership capability, a history of strong local relationships and a clear vision of what they want to achieve.
“There have no doubt been obstacles, the greatest one being coronavirus, but in spite of and in some cases, because of these challenges, many have been able to make significant progress. In particular, many PCNs have expanded their use of technology, allowing more patients to be seen remotely during the first phase of the pandemic, and to build strong new relationships with other partners across primary care and the wider system.”
She said while there will be future challenges for PCNs, the pandemic had shown the value of collaboration and integration across health and care. It is why, she added, there has never been a more important time for PCNs to be part of that transformation.
Dr Farzana Hussain, co-chair of the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network and clinical director for Newham Central One, in east London, added: “The value of PCNs has really been demonstrated through Covid-19. We have heard from many clinical directors that the new relationships formed between practices within their PCN have been hugely beneficial in co-ordinating their local response to the pandemic.”