What are Primary Care Networks (PCNs)

What are Primary Care Networks (PCNs)?

Settings, Service and Support

Care Learning

3 mins READ

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a recent development in the NHS. They aim to improve the quality and accessibility of care. Let’s take a closer look at what they are, how they work, and why they are important.

PCNs are groups of general practices working together with other community health services. They serve a local population, usually between 30,000 to 50,000 people. PCNs were introduced as part of the NHS Long Term Plan in 2019. Their goal is to provide more personalised, coordinated care for patients.

How PCNs Work

PCNs bring together a range of health and social care professionals. These include GPs, pharmacists, district nurses, and social prescribing link workers. By working closely, these teams aim to offer better support to patients. They focus on preventing illness and managing chronic conditions.

Collaborative Working

The emphasis is on teamwork. Different practices share resources, like staff and facilities. They also share knowledge and best practices. This collaboration helps them to tackle health issues more effectively.

Local Focus

Each PCN tailors its services to meet the needs of its local community. This could mean offering specific clinics, such as for diabetes care or mental health support. Because they understand their patients’ needs better, they can provide more relevant and effective care.

Primary Roles within PCNs

Several key roles exist within a PCN. These roles ensure that patient care is well-rounded and comprehensive.

General Practitioners (GPs)

GPs lead PCNs. They have a thorough understanding of their patient population. GPs coordinate care across different services. They aim to manage chronic diseases more effectively by working with specialists.


Pharmacists within PCNs work closely with GPs and other healthcare professionals. They help manage long-term conditions by providing medication reviews and advice. This ensures patients use their medicines safely and effectively.

Nurses and Community Health Workers

PCNs often employ district nurses and other community health workers. These professionals provide care in patients’ homes. They support those with complex health needs. This can reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

Social Prescribing Link Workers

Social prescribing link workers are unique to the PCN model. They connect patients to non-medical support. This might include community groups, exercise classes, or housing advice. Their aim is to improve overall wellbeing, not just physical health.

Benefits of PCNs

The introduction of PCNs offers several benefits for patients, healthcare professionals, and the wider NHS.

Improved Patient Care

PCNs provide more holistic care. By addressing both medical and social needs, they can improve patient outcomes. Patients benefit from more personalised support and quicker access to services.

Reduced Pressure on Hospitals

By managing chronic diseases better and offering preventive care, PCNs help reduce hospital admissions. This can ease the burden on secondary care services.

Greater Efficiency

Sharing resources and expertise makes PCNs more efficient. They can deliver care more cost-effectively. This is crucial in a time of increasing demand and limited resources.

Challenges Facing PCNs

While PCNs have great potential, they also face several challenges.


Integrating different services and professionals can be complex. Effective communication and collaboration are vital. This takes time and effort to develop.

Workforce Shortages

Many areas face shortages of healthcare staff. Recruiting and retaining skilled professionals is a concern. This can impact the ability of PCNs to deliver high-quality care.


Adequate funding is essential for the success of PCNs. While initial investment has been made, ongoing financial support is crucial. This ensures PCNs can continue to develop and improve their services.

The Future of PCNs

PCNs represent a significant shift in how primary care is delivered. Their focus on collaboration and community-based care has the potential to transform services. As they evolve, they will likely play a key role in the future of the NHS.

Continued Development

The success of PCNs depends on ongoing development. This includes building strong relationships between different services. It also means continually assessing and meeting the needs of local populations.


PCNs are well-placed to drive innovation in primary care. New technologies, such as digital consultations, can be trialled within PCNs. This helps to improve accessibility and convenience for patients.


Primary Care Networks are an innovative approach to healthcare. They bring together a range of professionals to provide more coordinated and personalised care.

Despite challenges, they have the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce pressure on the wider NHS. As PCNs continue to develop, they will play an essential role in shaping the future of healthcare.

By focusing on local needs and encouraging teamwork, PCNs aim to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality, comprehensive care. This is vital for promoting health and wellbeing in communities across the UK.

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