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Primary Care Networks Explained

The NHS Long Term Plan was published earlier this year, and Primary Care Networks are a key focus in how the NHS will shape and deliver services to the population over the coming years. GP practices and hospital outpatients are currently providing approximately 400 million face-to-face appointments each year. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a vision where patients will soon have access to digital appointments with their GP, will benefit from social prescribing, and have greater access to different professionals working to help improve their health conditions through Primary Care Networks.

What are Primary Care Networks?

The NHS has stated that spending in primary medical and community health services will be £4.5 billion higher in five years’ time. This is an unprecedented time for community health services, and it means that for the first time in the history of NHS funding, funding for community and primary care health services is guaranteed to grow faster than the NHS budget overall. This extra £4.5 billion in investment will fund Primary Care Networks; expanded community multidisciplinary teams comprising of neighbouring GP practices working together and sharing resources. These networks will overlook the primary care of 30-50,000 patients in community. As an extension of their current contract, GP practices will enter into a Network Contract DES which will eventually fund the provision of services in different geographical locations. It is expected that by July 2019, all areas of England will be covered by a Primary Care Network.

How will the Primary Care Networks work in practice?

Essentially Primary Care Networks are looking likely to be the main vehicle for the NHS to deliver its long term plan in providing a wider range of services, and making them more accessible for patients wherever they may be based. Over the coming years Primary Care Networks will be supported in developing an expanded primary care team. These networks will be expected to assess local health inequalities and outcomes, and work with community organisations in making support available to those patients who need it the most. Primary Care Networks will be required to deliver on seven national service specifications:

  • Structured Medication Reviews and Optimisation
  • Enhanced Health in Care Homes Service
  • Anticipatory Care
  • Personalised Care
  • Supporting Early Cancer Diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Diagnosis
  • Tackling Inequalities Locally

What other staff will be integrated into these networks?

To provide the greater array of services, Primary Care Networks will need to have a wider staff mix in place. This will include clinical pharmacists, social prescribing link workers, first contact physiotherapists, physician associates, and community paramedics. Initially the networks will seek to employ clinical pharmacists and then it will begin introducing the other health care professionals. Expanded local teams will also include dementia workers, podiatrists, chiropodists, geriatricians, mental and social health workers, as well as those working in the voluntary sector. 

How will Primary Care Networks be funded?

The Network Contract DES offers an Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, whereby funding is available to create up to an estimated 20,000+ additional roles in five different primary care roles. Under the new contract, 70% of the additional salary costs for employing new clinical pharmacists, physician associates, first contact physiotherapists, and community paramedics within GP practices, will be reimbursed, and 100% of ongoing salary costs will be funded for social prescribing link workers. The aim of the scheme is to grow additional capacity through newer roles, thus reducing pressures on general practitioners. It will mean workload and work pressure will reduce on general practitioners, allowing them to attend to those who have complex problems, or those needing urgent care.

Other funding through the new NHS plan will also be made available to GP practices who enter Primary Care Networks. Practices will get funding for engaging with the Primary Care Network; around £14,000 per practice. There will also be a Network Administration Payment of £1.50 per patient, each year, at the GP practice.

How Firza is supporting Primary Care Networks

At Firza, we provide real-world commercial and clinical solutions to NHS CCG’s, GP Practices and NHS organisations. Our team of Professionals includes some of the country’s leading clinicians. We have proven success stories from a number of GP practices and across CCG’s. We are one of the leading consultancies for Practice Pharmacy in the South of England. We advise CCG’s and GP practices on how to recruit, how to get the best results and can provide some of the country’s best Practice Pharmacists directly to your organisation.

Get in touch to see how we can help you, whether you are part of a general practice, or are a Practice Pharmacist.