Strategy documents are a regular occurrence but it would be a mistake for primary care to write off the NHS Long Term Plan. According to the latest issue of PCC Insight, the plan finally makes good on NHS England’s pledge to reverse the decline of general practice with new funding and significant changes to the GP contract, but it also comes with conditions. Central to the success of the strategy is the ability of primary care to organise in networks and for the wider health economy to form integrated care systems – both in short order. We hear from a former director of primary care, a leading lawyer and PCC’s chief executive Helen Northall about the implications of the plan and its prospects. We also hear from a procurement expert about the skills primary care networks will need to acquire to grow and thrive as more of the “new” money is routed through networks, and from PCC adviser Charlotte Goodson about the contracting issues faced by dispensing practices.
The NHS Long Term Plan sets a demanding short-term deadline for general practices to get together in primary care networks. With only 30% of practices currently in networks and even fewer meeting the definition set out in the NHS plan, there is little realistic prospect of countrywide coverage by the end of June. Few would disagree with the ambition to get practices organised in bigger groups to support sustainability and better enable participation in future integrated care systems. The big question is how they should go about it. This article distils PCC’s experience of working with existing practice networks into ten tips for success.
Emerging networks will need access to a range of support and expertise tailored to their local circumstances. The need to develop existing primary care organisations will be more important than ever, both to facilitate effective collaboration and to ensure that all partners in primary care networks bring something to the party.