The working of a primary care network in Wirral: experiences thus far
In order to meet the unique needs of local populations, health and care providers need to come together as a collective. A model of integration in line with the NHS Long Term Plan will support transformation, sustainability and meeting the increasing demands on the NHS. Due the complexity and variety of services in care communities, it is vital that organisations and the third sector acknowledge and understand one another with greater depth. Primary care networks (PCNs) support this by dissolving organisational boundaries, with services wrapping around each other and moving forward as one system. This article describes how one PCN in Wirral committed to appreciating each service's roles. By engaging regularly in different ways, members of the PCN were able build on professional relationships. The refocusing and reconnecting regularly as a collective team enabled a more streamlined approach to proactive, place-based patient care while providing professionals with improved working relationships, skill-sharing and increased job satisfaction.
In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan was published, setting out ambitious improvements for health and care services over the next 10 years (NHS England, 2019a). To support with transformation, sustainability and increasing demand, the plan places a significant emphasis on integration and dissolving boundaries between organisations. The plan describes the need for a cultural shift between health and care partners by wrapping around each other and moving forward as one system. These actions are to ensure that the population receives the best standards of preventative, anticipatory and unplanned care.
The NHS Long Term Plan encouraged sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs) to develop and implement their own strategies to execute local actions. This was to improve their services and population wellbeing while identifying the specific needs of the local community with place-based care (NHS England, 2019a). Primary care networks (PCNs) have since evolved, with a neighbourhood network of services coming together as a collective with a joint budget. PCNs have the potential to benefit patients by extending the range of services and care on offer to them and by helping to integrate primary care with wider health and community services at scale (Baird, 2019).
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