‘It’s all about building relationships’ – as our Primary Care Networks continue to develop across local neighbourhoods, new relationships and collaborations are starting to make a tangible difference to patients.

Developing effective Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – local networks of GP practices covering between 30,000 – 50,000 patients – is a key element within the NHS Long Term Plan.  This is about practices working together, and with other local health and care providers, around natural local communities that geographically make sense, providing coordinated care through joined up teams.  GP practices are at the heart of PCNs, but they are much more than simply a collection of practices with a big focus on prevention and personalised care.

Central funding has been allocated to support this work, which includes the development of PCN Clinical Directors and aspiring Clinical Directors.  This funding, which is available for five years, has been made available to all 24 PCNs in Surrey Heartlands who are also supported in their development by the Surrey Heartlands Primary Care Team.

Specific areas where PCNs are expected to make a difference to include:

  • More structured review of patients’ medications
  • Enhanced healthcare in care homes
  • More personalised care
  • Supporting early diagnosis of cancer
  • Better planning with patients and carers about individuals’ care needs
  • Improved prevention and diagnosis of cardiovascular disease
  • Tackling health inequalities at local level

At a recent event, hosted by the Surrey Heartlands Academy, health and care professionals from across the system were able to hear more about how PCNs are developing, including some real examples of new initiatives that are making a real difference to patients.  These include:

  • New community mental health service, now being offered at a number of PCNs across Surrey Heartlands, where patients are able to have extended appointments with mental health experts (from the NHS, social care and/or specialist third sector organisations) at their local GP practice, building on a pilot which ran across three PCNs over the last year;
  • Urgent care project at one of our PCNs in East Surrey; a central emergency care team ‘hub’ (consisting of nurse consultants, clinical pharmacists, physician associates, GP trainees and a GP) is based at one of the PCN sites. The team handles telephone triage calls from the combined PCN patient list, with satellite clinics at the other two sites and are able to advise, signpost or arrange appointments for patients who need help urgently, which is helping to reduce attendances at A&E, standardise treatment, and create a resilient team reducing traditional ‘duty doctor’ isolation.