Bringing Primary Care Network (PCN) teams together

Everyone is talking about PCNs, that they are now in operation from the 1st July 2019 but how are they functioning? These aren’t new people forming a new organisation, these are individuals that are already working within general practice but are now starting to work more closely together.

How do you enable and facilitate bringing those teams together?

Time! It takes a lot of time, effort and passion to drive things forward. You have to believe in what the PCNs are trying to achieve and you have to push this vision forward.

It needs robust leadership, people who can see the longer term benefits, both for patients and the health and wellbeing of the workforce. They have to have the drive, however cannot ‘push’ or ‘force’ their views. They also need to listen, not just hear what is being said, but listen and take it on board, develop other peoples ideas and lead by example.

Communication is key, keeping all staff informed of what is going on, even if it does not seem that significant, means a lot to the wider workforce that are maybe not yet involved in any of the planning and strategy work. Monthly news bulletins are a great way to keep that communications flowing. It is so easy to be working so hard to make sure things are done right, yet because no-one knows what is going on, it is dismissed and not given the recognition and support it warrants.

We all know that there are no two surgeries that same in General Practice so how on earth do we get the staff to be aligned and start working together?

It needs all of the above and some facilitation, bringing any teams together can be difficult but bring 5 or 6 individual practices together is something else! By the way, PCNs are NOT about merging practices, they are about aligning resources to get the best outcomes for their populations.

It is always good to start out with the willing, have a team building event, nothing over the top like abseiling, maybe a lunch or a fun type of workshop. I would keep this to a handful of people from each surgery to get the best out of it. What you need is keen individuals that can then take it back to their practices and relay the key messages, encouraging the peers and colleagues to understand what is going on.

Following on from that, you have started to build those relationships, you now need to develop some values and a vision of how you want to work together and where you want to get to. This is often quite a challenge, are there are lots of personalities, good facilitation is key here to get the best outcomes.

Once you have all that in place, develop your strategy, agree your priorities, operationally how things will work, who will lead on the various workstreams, allow individuals the time to connect with others, this will reap the rewards downstream.

The key message here is don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to bring teams together, you have to build trust and relationships to enable the ‘good’ things to happen. Demonstrate how things can work by delivering on some small projects that actually everyone sees the benefit of.

So what about those that just don’t want to get involved?

Don’t worry about them. Forming a functioning PCN is no small task, work with those that want to, the other will come on board in their own time. For the PCN to be a successful environment, you can push people to join in. It will work because those that are in it want it to work and believe in the vision.

In the near future PCNs will need to start working with wider providers, including local Councils, community providers and the voluntary sector. For this to be successful you have to ensure that the members in your PCN are already working effectively together.

Longer-term over the next 3-5 years PCNs may take on more of a commissioning role, for this they need to fully understand their population, the needs and how they can manage these more effectively by working with the community around them to commission more appropriate local services. This will be a huge challenge, therefore the need to get a ‘functioning’ and ‘inclusive’ PCN is crucial from the beginning.

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