All GP surgeries in Buckinghamshire have recently become a member of a Primary Care Network (PCN).

What does it mean?

It means that your surgery will now be working closely with other surgeries in your area. In most cases, the number of patients from these surgeries will total 30,000-50,000.

Why is it happening?

The Government decided in January 2019 to encourage all surgeries to become a member of a PCN. PCNs get extra money to employ new and shared staff. The Government’s reasons are explained in a press release that you can read here. https://www.buckinghamshireccg.nhs.uk/new-ways-of-working-to-free-up-doctors-as-part-of-the-nhs-long-term-plan/ .

Which is my PCN?

Go to https://www.buckinghamshireccg.nhs.uk/public/about-us/who-we-are/our-localities-and-member-practices/buckinghamshires-primary-care-networks/ to find out.

What is happening?

Your PCN has one or more clinical directors. They may be GPs or other surgery staff. The clinical directors will at first be doing two main things:

  1. Setting up all the systems so that the surgeries in the PCN can work well together;
  2. Employing a social prescriber and a pharmacist to be shared between the surgeries.

After that?
In 2020/21 PCNs will have the money to employ a physician associate and physiotherapist. In 2021/22 a paramedic will be added.

How will it affect me?

PCNs are just getting off the ground and each one will work slightly differently, so it is hard to say exactly what the practical difference will be for patients at this stage. One thing you might notice first is you may be offered an appointment with one of the new healthcare professionals.

What is the role of the patient?

The NHS constitution says that “The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does”. Healthwatch Bucks is encouraging all clinical directors to involve patients in the development of their PCN.

What is a Social Prescriber?

They are health professionals who help patients take more control of their own health by linking them to local community groups and other non-clinical services. The groups might be lunch clubs, walking groups, cultural activities, debt advice, slimming services, etc. The NHS website explains more https://www.england.nhs.uk/personalisedcare/social-prescribing/ .

What is a Physician Associate?

They are health professionals who have had an extra two years of training on general adult medicine. Under GP supervision, they will do things like take medical histories, examine patients, diagnose illnesses and analyse test results. There’s a course for PAs at Bucks New University which explains more https://bucks.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/physician-associate-ft .

How can I find out what is happening in my PCN?

Your surgery’s patient group (PPG) may know and you could sign up with them. Your surgery may have a newsletter which updates you about the PCN. And you can sign up to our newsletter which will feature general updates about PCNs in Buckinghamshire.

Where can I find more information about PCNs?

NHS England’s website has some information and a video https://www.england.nhs.uk/primary-care/primary-care-networks/

The independent King’s Fund has published a short explanation https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/primary-care-networks-explained

Anyone who wants to know the advice being given to surgeries by NHS England, see https://www.england.nhs.uk/primary-care/primary-care-networks/pcn-faqs/third/

Tell us your experience

Tell us what is happening in your area and whether your PCN is making a difference!

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