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How PCNs work with GP practices to benefit patients

When the NHS introduced Primary Care Networks in 2019, part of their aim was to keep our GP practices at the heart of primary care.

The PCN system has provided flexibility for practices to shape the care and services they offer to meet their patients’ specific, changing needs.

We have already seen new specialist services introduced to our Practices and new initiatives to support a population that is getting older, with more of us living with long-term conditions.

The next step is to offer patients increased access to more traditional general practice services, such as appointments with GPs.

Specialist Services

In the summer, we reflected on the first three years of North Gosforth Primary Care Network.

Our Network Pharmacy team has continued to grow, with Clinical Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians working closely with all four practices.

Their role brings a new level of medication expertise to patients and to practice staff, helping to make prescribing more efficient and safer.

Working closely with GPs at all practices is our home visiting team. Our Advanced Paramedic Practitioners assess and treat housebound patients who cannot visit their local practice.

Our Social Prescribing Link Workers tackle non-medical issues affecting people’s overall health and well-being. They assess people’s needs, make plans, connect people to services and groups that will help them, and offer support and encouragement along the way.

In North Gosforth, we also have a Health and Well-being Coach, offering support and education to people who want to lead healthier lives.

Enhanced Access to traditional services

The second part of making health care services flexible and personalised is making it easier for patients to be seen at times convenient to them.

Evening and weekend appointments for regular general practice services have always been high on the list of things patients would like to see.

Especially for those with multiple responsibilities, be it family, work or other commitments, getting to the Doctor’s during the working week has not always been easy. 

Extended access has been provided through a combination of early or late surgeries, with appointments at other venues or other days available through NHS 111.

But a new initiative that began at the start of October is bringing local GP services closer to patients.

Now, through Primary Care Networks – groups of GP practices working together – additional appointments will be available from 6.30 pm until 8 pm during the week and from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays.

Under the new agreement, each practice must provide an additional 60 minutes of appointments per week for every 1,000 patients registered at that practice.

To deliver this new service efficiently, appointments will be hosted at a ‘hub’ within each network. For Practices in North Gosforth, appointments will be at 200 Osborne Road.

More local appointments, closer to patients

We are developing a flexible staff team from practices within our network, so the service will feel as familiar and close to a regular practice appointment as possible.

A network-based approach between our four practices means more appointments with a local team closer to where patients are.

During each evening and Saturday session, a GP, Healthcare Assistant, and Phlebotomist will be available for practices to book patients in with. Reception staff will be based at each hub to welcome patients, so the experience will be very similar.

Depending on your specific needs and the availability of services and clinicians, you may be offered an evening or weekend appointment at our network hub.

Because this is a shared resource, each practice has a fair share of appointments with each clinician. For that reason, appointments will not be able for patients to book themselves directly.

Please note that access to our network hub is by appointment only. It is not a walk-in service, and the venue is not open for general enquires. All requests still need to be made during regular practice opening hours.