Our context – the NHS vision for Primary Care Networks

All ELR GP practices – serving a registered population of around 335,000 patients – are part of the ELR GP Federation. 

From its inception, the mission of the Federation has been ”to champion through GPs and their practices, investment and delivery of healthcare services at scale for patients across East Leicestershire and Rutland.” 

During 2018/19, NHS England set out its ambition for local health commissioners to actively encourage every GP practice to be part of a local Primary Care Network (PCN). 

Primary care networks are based on GP registered lists, typically serving natural communities of around 30,000 to 50,000. They should be small enough to provide the personal care valued by both patients and GPs, but large enough to have impact and economies of scale through better collaboration between practices and others in the local health and social care system. 

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. 

It is envisaged that Primary Care Networks will 

  • 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; 
  • enable a local focus set in the context of collaborations that bring together those services that need to be provided at scale; 
  • drive continuity of care for those patients with complex long term conditions by ‘freeing up’ GP time to focus on more complex areas whilst using alternative practitioners to see those with routine needs; 
  • looking at population health needs, working with patients and the public to understand their needs and requirements to deliver the best solutions to meet these; and 
  • balance choice and convenience of services and the scale at which the services are delivered. 

Under current legislative arrangements, Primary Care Networks are not statutory bodies. They consist of groups of general practices working together with a range of local providers, including primary care, community services, social care and the voluntary sector, to offer more personalised, coordinated health and social care to their local populations. 

During its third year, the Federation worked closely with our member practices to support them where needed in establishing themselves into Primary Care Networks.

Our support took three main forms: 

  • managing the recruitment process for Accountable Clinical Directors (ACDs); 
  • leading the development of Mandatory Agreement Schedules; and 
  • supporting creation of first draft Business Plans. 

We also discussed with our members whether and how the Federation could evolve to better support practices in the ‘new world’ of PCNs, including providing a forum to work collectively and organise at a ’30 practice level’ where it makes sense to do so. 

In doing so, we emphasised the close fit between the Federation’s long-standing strategic priorities to support: 

  • Local service delivery & business development – facilitating the delivery of more services locally; bidding collectively and / or holding contracts where it is helpful to do so 
  • Resilience and sustainability – innovating and transforming the way that services are delivered to address the pressures currently faced in the local health care system 
  • Providing and effective voice – for our members across ELR 

We also recognised that the Federation’s future role should be shaped and determined by its member PCNs to support primary care in ELR and therefore have proposed the seven PCN ACDs join the Board to play a key role in directing the Federation and its future plans. 

Over the coming year we will work with our members to determine how their Federation will evolve to support them and their PCNs in the future.