Primary Care Network service specifications and the Network DES: analysis of engagement

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) build on the core of current primary care services and enable greater provision of proactive, personalised, coordinated and more integrated health and social care for our communities. They are crucial to the development of Integrated Care Systems and in meeting the ambitions in the Long Term Plan. NHS England and Improvement recognise that PCNs are at an early stage of development – our objective is for the Network Contract DES to support PCNs to deliver the ambition for improved standards of care across the country, setting realistic expectations for delivery that benefit patients.

Draft outline service specifications for April 2020 were developed through a national co-design process with relevant stakeholder groups. In recognition of the breadth and importance of the proposals, we published drafts of the proposed service requirements in December 2019. We have run a significant engagement process as we know feedback is vital.

Whilst there was a level of in-principle support for the aspirations of the individual services, the engagement showed major concerns. These include; the workforce implications and the investment general practice is being asked to make in new workforce roles; the level of resource available to support delivery; the level of specificity and length of the specifications and the aggregate effect of introducing all five services from April 2020.

We view such widespread engagement in a debate about how PCNs develop as positive and the scale of the feedback demands a clear response. Over 4 thousand people completed our online survey, 200 email responses were received and over 1.5 thousand individuals registered to attend webinars on the specifications. Further details on the level of engagement and key themes can be found in our Analysis of Engagement.

We want to provide PCNs with certainty and renewed confidence about their future as rapidly as possible. The feedback has already been informing negotiations on the final GP contract package, which we want to agree as soon as possible with the BMA GPC, addressing the core concerns raised in a way that continues to respect the existing five year deal, sustains general practice, and secures improvements for our communities.