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Factors determining the effectiveness of a PCN 

If you had to note down the top three struggles within your PCN, what would your list look like?  

BMA conducted research which showed that some of the common struggles included: 

Addressing the capacity gap within the GP workforce 

The demographics of our population continues to change rapidly.  

There are only around 37 thousand registered GPs in the UK, and the number of registered patients is now reaching 62 million (2).  

This clearly places our healthcare workers under immense pressure.  If patients were to be divided evenly between all GPs, each doctor would be looking after over 1600 thousand patients. This is undoubtedly extremely demanding and draining. 

Just like any of us, doctors want to have a good work/life balance. They need time for taking breaks, relaxation and family.  Overly extending anyone for a prolonged period of time is going to lead to a detrimental situation. 

At the end of the day, doctors deserve to be cared for too.  

Failure to do so results in increasing numbers of GPs that resign. Leading to a further increase within the capacity gap. It is a cycle that must be broken! 

Currently some areas are under more pressure than others: for instance, Portsmouth is the worst hit region with only 40 GPs for 100,000 people (3). Along with areas such as Hull where 42 GPs are available per 100,000 people (4).  

This situation needs to change and requires urgent attention, our GP workforce needs support to be able to accommodate the increasing number of patients under their care. What do you think should be done to help them? Reduced working hours? Better management of workload?  Something else perhaps?  (Please let us know in the comments below). 

Delivering new services to support the implementation of the long-term plan 

The long-term plan has been shared on the NHS website, highlighting set goals to improve and develop certain features within the NHS.  

Primary care networks have been developed with the intention to accommodate for the new implementations as per the long-term plan.  

For instance, enhanced access is a plan that will initiate shortly. This is intended to ensure that more patients will be able to access their required care.  Nonetheless, this will increase the workload for the healthcare workers. It will be more important than ever to ensure the workload is managed better than ever before.  

Some of the other upcoming or ongoing changes include having new clinical priorities. For example, in cancer care, the plan aims to boost survival by speeding up diagnosis. By 2028, it is expected that 75 per cent of cancers will be caught at stages I or II. These changes will be lifesaving if implemented successfully.  

To achieve this, in 2023/24 funding for primary and community care will be at least £4.5 billion higher than in 2019/20.  

Although the funding is increased to accommodate all new implementations, are the expectations for improvement realistic? Is the extra funding enough to achieve them?  

Stability of the partnership model 

Having a stable partnership model is the core of all operations within the network. Without it there will be no improvements.  

The partnership model allows to form a long term and deep understanding of a local population’s needs, combined with the flexibility to respond to the needs. Without this, the care will not be personalised to communities, this could result in poor quality care and waste of resources.  

Additionally, to achieve successful implementation of services mentioned above, all clinics within the PCN must have effective communication, strict goals and deadlines and great management. This way patients can receive a more personalised, efficient, and better-quality care.  

Overall, we must remember to consider the struggles our PCNs embrace and celebrate the success they already achieved! 

What are your thoughts on the above struggles?  Would there be others that would have made your top 3?