CEO Blog – An Introduction to Primary Care Networks

CEO Blog – An Introduction to Primary Care Networks

May 21, 2019

An Introduction to Primary Care Networks

Adam Irvine

Hello to all. My first update to you all as CEO of CPCW is around Primary Care Networks. Primary Care Networks are a term that by now you will have perhaps heard mentioned within the health service.

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are an approach at bringing a local approach to health and social care so that services and functions can be designed (and redesigned) around the local community. This increases the amount services can be personalised as well as looking at the issues prevalent in an area and tackling the ones most important for prevention and early detection. This is an all sector approach to out of hospital care – the GP contract centres the GP as being the hub around which other services are based but it’s a whole team approach – including Pharmacy, Optometry, Dentistry, Mental Health Trusts, Community Trusts, Social care and the community & voluntary sector.

This is hugely important as the population is growing and people are living longer and this puts a bigger demand on our services – people are living with long term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and may need to access their local health services more often. The vision is that PCNs will have closer control over local budgets, likely with capitated elements and will bring alignment across their network so that all services work together seamlessly to deliver the right care to patients, by the right person, at the right time. Put simply, this means that more and more of our funding will be moved down to the local level and it is through PCNs that the important decisions on how funding are made.

I would encourage all contractors, pharmacists and pharmacy managers to watch PSNC’s Future of pharmacy animation below.


It is therefore essential that community pharmacies are active voices in each PCN and there is a great desire from both our national pharmacy leaders as well as our local NHS England area team for this to occur. If we are not part of PCNs, then the system will likely bypass us and opportunities to better use our skills will be lost. Whilst this sounds quite an abstract concept, this is happening today. The NHS 10 year plan has PCNs at its heart of delivery and within our area, PCNs are viewed as the key way of delivering primary care within the larger structures. I anticipate that CCGs and Local Authorities will commission strategic outcomes from PCNs but the tactical commissioning and delivery will occur through the PCN itself. There is more information at should you wish to read more.

It will be local pharmacists that need to be involved in the PCNs, speaking with other local providers – GPs, social workers, nurses, mental health specialists and volunteers.

As an LPC we are currently mapping the PCNs where we know the boundaries and we are assigning pharmacies to these PCNs by geographical placement alone. By the end of June we will have the full list from our CCGs of where the GP practices have arranged themselves and therefore the defined PCN. Once we have this, we will be emailing you more details and asking pharmacies to self-identify if there are multiple PCNs you believe you will be part of – we think there will be several pharmacies where patients from multiple PCNs are actively choosing their services and this will be appropriate.

An outline of our plan to help and enable contractor engagement with PCNs is:

  • Governance – so that PCN leads will represent all pharmacies in their patch. Communication channels will aid transparency and the LPC can assure the conversations occurring by this route.
  • Communication – we will have a service where each PCN has a single email list for all pharmacies. This will be encouraged to be the main route of communication so that everyone has the necessary oversight.
  • Training – our PCN leads will need background, context and training to deal with a new type of conversation.
  • Information – our website will act as an information hub to support the PCNs with information about the whole patch, the unitary authority area and then the individual PCNs as they are formed and more information is present.

I do hope that pharmacy is able to engage well at PCN level and I will update you all regularly over the coming months as more details of our PCNs emerge. I anticipate this to be a large part of the workload of the LPC team ongoing and we will do our utmost to support you all.

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