Development support

Primary care network development priorities, support and funding

Background and context

To help all primary care networks (PCNs) mature and thrive, sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs) are responsible for putting in place high quality support for PCN development.

In practice, responsibility for ensuring effective PCN development support falls to primary care leads in STPs/ICSs, working with PCN clinical directors, and critically their wider community partners: community providers, the voluntary sector, and local government.

Nationally, we have provided dedicated PCN development support funding for this purpose.  For 2019/20, £43.5 million was released to ICSs and STPs in June 2019.  This funding was to be used for PCN development – the framework for which was set out in the PCN Development Support Guidance and Prospectus 2019/20 published in August 2019 – and a specific clinical director development programme in each STP/ICS.

The funds were intended to help PCNs make early progress against their objectives – for example supporting much closer practical collaboration between PCNs and their community partners – including preparatory activity for the forthcoming national service specifications.

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PCN development support guidance 2020/21

The 2020/21 guidance builds upon the PCN Development Support Guidance and Prospectus 2019/20 and sets out the PCN development priorities for 2020/21 and how the national funding of £43.7 million should be used.

Funding allocation 2020/21

Funding was made available to ICSs and STPs in August 2020. It is imperative that this funding is used to support PCN development, and that PCN clinical directors are key parties in discussions about how it is deployed, alongside their CCG and system.

PCN development priorities

In order for PCNs to be able to respond to the impact of COVID-19, we worked with a range of national and local stakeholders to gain consensus about PCN development priorities in 2020/21.

As a minimum ICSs and STPs, their constituent places, and PCNs should use the development funding:

  • To support recruitment, embedding and retention of new staff, helping to build capacity and address high workload, as well as supporting full spend of the Additional Roles Reimbursement (ARRS) funding. Staff will be supported to have the skills and capability to operate effectively across networks and as part of integrated teams.  Staff induction, clinical supervision and a focus on staff wellbeing and resilience, along with support to model demand and re-design ways of working should help embed the new workforce.
  • To enhance integration by building on the work that’s already happened with community services teams and community pharmacy in response to COVID-19 and strengthening this through multi-disciplinary team ways of working with other local providers. Working with patients, their carers’ and the wider community will be essential to create a joint model of proactive and personalised care.
  • To continue to improve access by embedding the use of total triage and remote consultation; cutting waiting times and supporting the interface between primary, community and secondary care.
  • To reduce health inequalities, enhancing population health management locally with a focus on prevention recognising the inequality in relation to COVID-19 and those groups who may have been disproportionally disadvantaged.

PCN development funding

2020/21 funding

  • ICSs and STPs are responsible for PCN development and the delivery of priorities set out for 2020/21. System and place primary care leaders must engage and work closely with PCN clinical directors to come to collective agreement on local priorities and how funding should consequently be spent to respond to their specific need. Most systems will continue to deploy a portion of the funding to provide specific leadership development support to PCN clinical directors.
  • This will include agreement on whether support is secured at place or system level (to gain economies of scale) and agreement of the governance required to ensure PCN priorities set out for 2020/21 are delivered.
  • The 2019/20 PCN Development Support Guidance and Prospectus still applies and provides a framework for a range of support that the national funding could be used for (see below image for the PCN development support domains). Examples of specific spend may include support to drive quality improvement, change management support, staff wellbeing and resilience interventions or support to develop leadership skills across PCNs.  This includes freeing up time to allow staff to participate in development activity.

Funding should be used to support development, rather than to pay for delivery of services or other operating costs.


Our regional teams will ensure that systems use the funding in line with the priorities set out and according to the following parameters:

  • A universal offer, with PCN clinical and non-clinical staff receiving support matched to their needs
  • Support designed alongside and agreed with PCNs and clinical directors, promoting collaboration and shared understanding within PCNs and with wider partners, and recognising that commissioning some elements of support, once, at the system or place level is likely to make sense
  • Alignment with commitments set out in the NHS Long Term Plan and the Network Contract Direct Enhanced Service (DES), and supporting delivery of system strategies

The information on these pages is also available to download.

For more information, or any questions, please email the PCN Development and Delivery team at