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NHS England proposes ‘phase-in’ of PCN requirements to avoid ‘overburdening’ teams 

by Isabel Shaw and Anviksha Patel
7 January 2020

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NHS England plans to ‘phase-in’ all requirements for primary care networks (PCNs) so as not to ‘overburden’ networks, new proposals have revealed

According to draft guidance NHS England released on 23 December – which outlined the PCN service specifications – practices working as part of PCNs will be required to deliver five national services from April 2020 onwards.

The NHS is aware of concerns raised over limiting PCNs chances of success by overburdening them at such an early stage with many unrealistic expectations, the guidance said. 

In response to this, it has proposed to slowly ‘phase-in’ all five requirements throughout the upcoming year, the first being structured medication reviews from April and enhanced health in care homes from June.

Plans for services to provide anticipatory care and personalised care must be drawn up by ‘no later than June 2020’. Services to support early cancer diagnosis must have a clinical lead in place from April, and during 2020/21 there must be a ‘safety netting’ approach put in place to monitor patients referred for suspected cancer.

The document also revealed a typical practice within a PCN will receive funding of £14,000 for participating in a PCN. Each PCN is also guaranteed £1.50 per registered patient and funding to support its clinical director.

Helen Northall, chief executive of primary care commissioning, responded to the draft: ‘the willingness of national bodies to slow the process down can be seen as a positive sign that the centre is listening,’ she said.  

However, she also noted the lack of finalised guidance, which could be a ‘further cause of anxiety for clinical directors already worried about implementing the service specifications at this early stage for PCNs.’   

NHS England was unable to comment at this time but added that the final version of the specification will be published as soon as possible, following that engagement and the conclusion of GP contract negotiations.  

Under the GP network contract DES, PCNs are responsible for the delivery of seven national service specifications. The further two specifications – on cardiovascular disease prevention and diagnosis and tackling neighbourhood inequalities – will begin in April 2021.