One year has passed since the deadline for all GP practices to form PCNs. Described as the 'building blocks' of integrated care systems by NHS England and Improvement, these geographical networks were formed to work with NHS community health services and other local partners to deliver more joined-up care at neighbourhood level (patient populations of 30,000-50,000) and support the future sustainability of general practice.
But the interface between primary and community care has evolved over time and in different ways across the country. It has developed many forms and functions, of which PCNs are the latest incarnation. Our briefing Primary care networks: a quiet revolution (July, 2019) proposed ways for PCNs and NHS community health services to work effectively together, which remain relevant and – we hope – helpful one year later.
As we come out of the first wave of the pandemic, it is clear that COVID-19 has put a huge strain on all parts of the health and care system. The time will come for an in-depth analysis of the benefits of neighbourhood-level integration during the COVID-19 response, but the emerging picture is one of variation across the country. We thought that this would be a timely moment to revisit the range of partnerships that community service providers are forming with primary care colleagues, and the support that trusts can offer to PCNs specifically.