As of 1 July, primary care networks (PCNs) are now live across England. PCNs are groups of practices and other primary care professionals that cover between 30,000 and 50,000 patients.
GP practices have been kept abreast of PCN-related deadlines through multiple channels and most English GP practices are now part of a PCN.
According to NHS England, as of 27 June there were 1,259 networks. Those networks will have by now ticked all the boxes to start receiving national investment from 1 July, but is there anything else they need to think about to kick-start their PCN right?
In the first article in a series of how to kick-start your PCN, Dr Farzana Hussain, the sole GP holding the contract for The Project Surgery in east London and clinical director of Newham Central One, shares her tips on which first steps PCNs can take in their early days to ensure success.
1. Focus on trust and relationships
‘Practices should get to know each other and form trust and relationships. In my network, we’ve worked in commissioning clusters cluster before, but we have never shared network money. We are going to spend some time thinking about why we exist, asking ourselves what our purpose is and what we would like to achieve.’
2. Complete the Network Health Scorecard
‘This is a questionnaire put together by Source4Networks – a platform funded by the Sustainable Improvement Team in NHS England. The questionnaire is something that everyone attending PCN meetings can fill in.
‘It has questions such as ‘what is our purpose/performance/capacity’. It’s a conversation starter – an assessment to see where we all think we are now. There is so much being asked from us now, so we really want to look at how we want to work together.’
3. Think about your Belbin role
‘This self-assessment tool helps employees think about their behavioural strengths and weaknesses. The tool argues that, in order to be successful, teams need to include people showing nine different behaviours. It helps team members think about their preferred ways of working.
‘It can help a network look at what different type of workers it has, which can help to start and finish every project collectively.’
4. Find a shared purpose
‘This is the first thing networks should focus on. If you don’t have a shared purpose, you won’t achieve anything.’
5. Focus on the bigger picture
‘PCNs are more than just practices working together – it’s about partnering with other organisations. We want to work with our local community, mental health and acute trusts on population health. At this stage, I am contacting our local partners myself to start a conversation about improving population health but in the future, I hope to join forces with the other clinical directors and meet our local partners as a team.’
6. Develop a leadership strategy
‘I like the National Association of Primary Care’s (NAPC) concept of servant leadership. As a clinical director, I am here not to sit on my throne but to serve my 65,000 residents and my seven practices.
‘PCNs should communicate their leadership strategy from the onset. Mine is distributive leadership, which means I am not the boss or headmistress; I will serve the network but I need everyone to help.
‘I don’t think PCNs can be led by one person – there’s far too much to do.’
7. Don’t forget about money flow
‘As a network, we agreed it would have been better governance if the clinical directors’ practice did not host the [Network DES] money. This is because we thought that the money should flow to the practices that have more than one partner, as we think that in this way the partners could hold each other to account.’
8. Guarantee patients’ involvement
‘We hosted multiple borough-wide resident engagement events – which were started off by the national leadership organisation NHS Collaborate – to raise awareness on PCNs.
‘We also hope to have a patient on our PCN board.
‘They will be involved in our decision-making and will be asked to help shaping and influencing that.’
9. Remember the role of community pharmacists
‘We are looking for a community pharmacist to sit on our PCN board too, as we think this sector should also be given decision-making powers in our network.’