Pulse PCN has launched the PCN Evaluation report which looks at what the last five years of primary care networks (PCNs) has meant for primary care professionals.

PCN evaluation report

This cross-brand collaboration brings together the voices of more than 1,700 health care professionals including GPs, clinical directors, nurses, pharmacists and practice managers to look at the impact PCNs and additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) has had on the sector.

PCNs were introduced in 2019 to bring about close collaboration between practices to provide care for their populations and hire in a range of professionals into primary care, such as pharmacists, via the ARRS, to increase access and free up GP time.

The PCN evaluation report explores the wide spread of views over the success of PCNs.

For clinical directors, who run PCNs and are mostly GPs, 69% said their PCN had been successful or very successful in improving joint working and around 63% said this of improving care for patients while more than half, 57%, also rated themselves in these terms for improved patient access.

But 30% said their PCN had been unsuccessful or very unsuccessful at freeing up GP time with 36% feeling neutral about this part of their work.

The majority of respondents were GPs (without a PCN role) and just 16% believe PCNs have boosted access and 14% think they have improved care. The vast majority, 69%, feel that PCNs have been unsuccessful or very unsuccessful at freeing up GP time.

However, pharmacists who work in PCNs, the most popular profession hired by networks, believe that they have freed up GP time with 62% saying this is the case.

They also rate the work of PCNs positively, with 71% stating they are successful or very successful at improving care for patients and 62% believe they have increased patient access. In contrast to GPs they believe that they have freed up GP time with 62% saying this is the case.

For nurses who work with but not in a PCN, our survey also shows more positive than negative views for the impact of PCNs on improving care for patients, tackling health inequalities and improving joint working.

For PCN network managers the results show that 60% believe their PCN has increased patient access and the same proportion say the PCN has improved care for patients. There is less support for the view that PCNs have freed up staff time. Only 40% of the managers we asked said this was the case.

Among practice managers more widely, there is slightly less positivity about the impact PCNs have had, with 49% rating them as successful in improving care for patients and 52% rating them successful in increasing patient access.

Overall, when asked about the changes brought about by the introduction of PCNs and the move to integrated care systems the total responses are largely negative.

A majority of 69% say they have increased workload, have had a negative impact on their job roles and have not increased collaboration between primary and secondary care. Just a third think they have increased access to GP services and opinion was split on whether they had improved care for patients.

Pulse PCN editor, Victoria Vaughan, says: ‘While this survey shows positive views of the impact of PCNs on both access and care for patients from those leading and working in PCNs it highlights that the majority of GPs do not feel this way. PCNs can only succeed if they are supported by the practices they are working with and are perceived to have a benefit to those practices.

‘While those working in ARRS roles report a largely positive experience there are fundamental issues around the supervision of these roles and the wider impact on other professions.

‘The next government would be wise to navigate the future role of PCNs and the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) in collaboration with GPs as a whole if the plan for better patients access and population-based neighbourhood care is to progress.’

For the opportunity to reach our audience of decision-makers across PCNs through a variety of digital advertising options, please contact us today.

About the survey

The State of Primary Care survey took place between April 29 and May 20 2024 across Pulse PCN and our parent and sister titles, Pulse, Healthcare Leader, Nursing in Practice, The Pharmacist, Management in Practice and Hospital Pharmacy Europe.

There were 1,795 responses from health professionals. The majority – 72% or 1,294 – of respondents work in primary care in England. There were answers from across England with all 42 ICBs represented.

Of those who stated their profession (1,104) the majority were GPs at 37% (411). Nearly a quarter of these GPs (83) have a PCN role and a further 6% (65) of the total respondents are clinical directors (CDs) who are also predominately GPs.

PCN and practice managers were the next largest cohort of respondents at 21% (231) with 2% (21) of participants working as network managers.

Nurses were the third largest group to respond, representing 16% (179) of participants. The largest majority were general practice nurses at 11% (122) followed by community nurses at 3% (29) and nurses with an ARRS role at 2% (28).

Pharmacists made up 10% (114) of respondents, with the majority being pharmacists employed via ARRS 4% (44) followed by community pharmacists at 3% (31) and practice pharmacists at 2% (25).

The survey also informed a unique insight report examining how major changes to the NHS landscape has impacted its audiences. It captures the views of HCPs working across primary and secondary care, revealing how recent NHS reforms have impacted on their roles and how Cogora has adapted its brands to reflect the changes.