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Primary Care Networks

From Cathy Winfield, Chief Officer, Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

You probably saw lots in the media last year about the celebrations for the 70th birthday of the NHS, and I’m sure everyone was interested to hear about the amazing advances made in medical care over the decades.

This transformation is an on going process as the NHS is developed and tailored to meet the needs of people who expect healthcare to be as efficient and streamlined as the rest of modern life.

This is the thinking behind Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – a new way of working in healthcare which comes on stream at the beginning of July.

PCNs are a group of neighbouring GP practices who are joining forces to offer a wider range of health and wellbeing services to their local communities. PCNs will include a range of other people like pharmacists, physiotherapists and Community Mental Health professionals so that patients can access more services through GP surgeries.

The Networks will also work closely with clinical teams at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, the voluntary sector, people working in social care and community and mental health staff at the Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust.

This means that people will have easier, quicker and more convenient access to all health care – physical, mental and emotional. They may not be in each surgery but every patient will have access to services somewhere in their neighbourhood.

PCNs promise a real revolution, developing a healthcare system that’s tailor made to properly cater to the diverse needs of each local community – because what’s wanted in a village near Wokingham isn’t necessarily the same as what’s needed in an urban area of Reading.

So, when the wraps come off the PCNs they should make life so much easier for the people we serve across Berkshire West. People like Sarah in Reading who’s got type 1 diabetes and needs to be able to manage it without taking lots of time off work for doctor’s appointments. She’s used to managing most of her life, from shopping to booking restaurant tables, online and wants to be able to do the same with her healthcare.

Now, thanks to the transformation taking place in the NHS, in future Sarah will be able to book appointments and repeat prescriptions online. She can check her blood sugar levels at home and send the information to her GP practice to monitor and in future she’ll be able to use a health care app to get information to help manage her condition.

Then there’s Katya, a mum in Wokingham, with 3 young children. What happens if one of them is poorly, her GP surgery can’t fit her in that day and he doesn’t need the services of A&E? Under the PCN system her GP practice will be able to quickly arrange an appointment for her at a neighbouring surgery where her son could be seen by a clinical pharmacist, paramedic or nurse practitioner.

And Gul, an 86 year old from Newbury suffering complex conditions like dementia and arthritis which means many trips to his GP, physiotherapist and dietician. Gul really wants to be able to attend most of these appointments at his local surgery, and, when he’s there, he doesn’t want to have to keep repeating his entire medical history over and again. Under the PCN system his local health teams will be sharing his information and have online access to his records. This’ll give them more time for a proper chat with him about not just his medical issues, but all the other things affecting his wellbeing.

Our GPs and the wider healthcare community in Berkshire West Integrated Care System (ICS) are working closely with patient groups to make sure the needs and the voices of people like Gul , Katya and Sarah are taken into account as they set up their PCNs. Our commitment is to make the Primary Care Networks work for patients.

If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.