Development of Primary Care Networks and new ways of working – a real success story for the county

NHS and care partners are working more closely together than ever before to improve health and wellbeing, extend the range of services available close to home and deliver truly joined up care for local people.

Gloucestershire’s 74 GP practices have organised themselves into 14 Primary Care Networks (PCNs) which are working closely with local community services, such as mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services, to offer better care for patients.

Being able to see a wider range of specialists at the surgery and in the community is making a real difference to patients and also frees up GP time to spend with patients who have more complex needs.

In some networks, patients might see a paramedic, physiotherapist or clinical pharmacist. Paramedics working within one PCN are saving an average of 120 GP visits per month, and over 40 clinical pharmacists are working in practices to help with prescribing medicines.

An approach which sees advanced physiotherapists working within practices has been recognised nationally as an example of good practice, providing an average of 180 appointments per month.

The physiotherapists themselves are employed by Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, which means they benefit from education and training alongside fellow professionals and retain close links with their counterparts in the community teams.

In addition, mental health practitioners (MHPs) working with practices in Gloucester each see an average of 65 patients a week. The MHPs, also employed by the Trust, added around 1,500 hours of mental health support within primary care in their first year.

Working together, practices have made more than 100,000 additional GP surgery appointments available, including at evenings and weekends, making it easier for patients to be seen at a time that suits them.

These developments have all been possible thanks to ever closer partnership working in communities.

A PCN development group has been set up and the networks are also being supported through training as part of the PCN Development Support Programme.