PCNs must not put CCG meetings ahead of local engagement, warns primary care director

Primary care network (PCN) clinical directors who prioritise CCG meetings over spending time with local practices and patients are 'getting it wrong', NHS England's medical director for primary care has warned.

NHS England director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani

Speaking at the Best Practice Conference in Birmingham, Dr Nikki Kanani argued that PCN leaders not focused on engaging with practice managers and local populations were neglecting one of the fundamental principles of the networks.

Her warning comes after GP clinical directors last month expressed concern over their potential workload, with some saying requests to attend CCG meetings were causing them to be ‘pulled in every direction’.

Highlighting that it had been 100 days since PCNs went live, Dr Kanani said all areas of primary care had ‘absolutely risen to the challenge’ of working more collaboratively. But she said it was important network leaders did not get distracted from their core responsibilities.

Primary care networks

The London GP told delegates that PCNs had not been created to ‘save the world’ and said the groups should still be focusing on developing working relationships at this early stage.

She also urged PCNs to make use of primary care training hubs set up by Health Education England (HEE) to improve staff retention amid declining GP partner numbers.

Dr Kanani told the conference: ‘For me, a network is building on something that is actually quite familiar, especially to general practice - it’s about your clusters, your neighbours and your localities.

‘It’s about coming together as groups of practices to understand what you can do differently or deliver differently to look after your practices, to build sustainability and to fundamentally change the way you look after your patients.

CCG meetings

‘If you find yourself in a network that is spending more time in [CCG-level] meetings than with your other practices and with the local community, then you are getting it wrong and we need to help get it into a better place.'

With PCN leaders expected to work with their local CCGs to facilitate clinical engagement, some have said time spent in meetings has left little space to complete their day jobs as a GP.

Dr Kanani said: ‘All of a sudden you can find yourself at meetings every day of the week but that’s not what I want to see for networks, I don’t think that will create the change we want to create.

‘Right now, I’d like to see practices just talking to each other, understanding how to use the development funding, and finding some time and space to connect with each other.’

Training hubs

Dr Kanani urged clinical directors to make use of HEE training hubs. HEE says the hubs are intended to support multidisciplinary primary care teams and 'bring together NHS organisations, community providers and local authorities'.

Dr Kanani said: ‘We need to do retention better and what I would like to see is that local systems, through the training hubs, have the money to develop retention schemes that reflect the population and the workforce.

‘If you have people who are retiring because they want to do fewer sessions and they want to mentor younger practitioners, people coming through the system, let’s make that happen so we don’t have that massive drain of expertise.'

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