Header image for the current page PCNs: a new way of working

The deadline by which practices must join a primary care network (PCN) is just a day away. Chris Davies, transformation partner at NHS Arden & GEM CSU asks if you are ready for the changes this will bring.

PCNs will see practices and other health and social care organisations working in clusters to support patient populations of 30,00-50,000 people. The intention here is to incentivise joined up working, based on common sense collaboration between organisations providing health and care services across a specific area. So far, so logical.

But, as with any change affecting a complex service, PCNs bring challenges too – including data sharing, workforce planning, governance and finance.

So, what have we learned so far and how can that be used to support networks in deciding how they will operate by 30 June, when the PCN model must be defined?

NHS Arden & GEM CSU, Capsticks and clinical director for the national primary care home project, Professor James Kingsland, have been working with a number of emerging PCNs in the southwest and, generally speaking, we have found that there is clarity on what needs to be done, but some debate about how best to do it.

How do you know which are the best governance and workforce models for your organisation; how will you manage relationships between the member practices; and what needs to be in place to enable the information and resource sharing required?

Not surprisingly, different organisations bring different skills and some networks are more advanced than others. To maximise efficiency and focus attention where it’s most needed, we’re encouraging PCNs to begin with an independent assessment of the decisions, processes and documentation prepared to date to highlight gaps and focus on key priorities.

An important part of this is looking at how they are able to take the principles of the PCN and translate these back into their own network, mindful of what they plan to prioritise and how they intend to work.

Some of the most common issues PCNs are wrestling with include:

These decisions require engagement across the network to understand and agree the PCN’s shared purpose, supported with appropriate governance.

Tomorrow is just the start of the PCN process – the networks are about long term gain rather than a quick fix. However, based on the conversations we’ve witnessed to date, there is a will to succeed in delivering joined-up care across local areas for the benefit of local population – which is encouraging.

This blog was originally published on Management in Practice website.

Find out more about how we can support PCNs in our 'Delivery primary care at scale' leaflet.

Picture of Chris Davies

Author: Chris Davies |


Chris is a programme manager with considerable experience of working across a wide range of NHS services from clinical governance and operational management through to service transformation and strategy and planning. Chris has spent the last 5 years working primarily in transformation within an integrated acute and community trust environment. Currently, Chris is leading on a number of whole system programmes focusing on service integration and urgent and emergency care.