As providers come together across organisational boundaries to work collaboratively in neighbourhoods, places and integrated care systems (ICSs), partnerships between primary and secondary care colleagues are pivotal in delivering high quality, sustainable patient care. These partnerships will take many forms, often blurring traditional boundaries and incorporating a complex patchwork of general practice, primary care networks (PCNs), large scale primary care providers, trusts and other partners.

We hope that this briefing, produced in partnership between NHS Providers and the At Scale Primary Care Networking Group is a timely contribution to the debate about how such development might be achieved, with relevant case studies for colleagues in providers of all types and sizes. Given the national, NHS-wide drive to tackle waiting times and recover the backlog of care caused by the disruption of the pandemic, we have deliberately focused our first joint briefing on sharing how primary and secondary care providers are working together to manage waiting lists and support patients.

Behind the headline figures of the national waiting list, which has reached 5.3 million, lie difficult experiences and sometimes poorer outcomes for the individuals affected. Effective partnership working between primary and secondary care providers will be essential both to address the care backlog effectively, and to support patients and their families while they wait. Quick and practical steps will need to be taken by local health and care partners to improve communication between organisations and with patients. In some instances, service developments that were being considered prior to COVID-19 will need to be expanded, refined or accelerated. Elsewhere, entirely new approaches may be required – for example through more extensive and sophisticated use of digital technology and data analytics.

We hope this briefing offers a helpful contribution to this important and urgent debate. We would like to thank all the contributors to this report.