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Incoming Government must secure PCNs’ future, Confed warns

Incoming Government must secure PCNs’ future, Confed warns
By Jess Hacker
21 February 2024

The next Government must secure the future of primary care networks (PCNs), the NHS Confederation has urged.

It comes as NHS England is set to publish the 2024/25 GP contract next month which may also see changes to the PCN DES.

The Confederation warned that primary care is currently offering record numbers of appointments, despite a shortfall of more than 4,200 full-time GPs, adding that the current direction is not sustainable.

The incoming Government must therefore help expand primary care at scale by ensuring the future of PCNs is secure, it said in a new report (21 February) setting out five priority areas for the 2025 Government.

The NHS Confederation said: ‘The next Government needs to commit to support primary care further, including an expansion of delivery of care at scale by securing the future of primary care networks (PCNs), building on the success of GP federations in many areas and a commitment to establishing primary care provider collaboratives.’

The next general election must be held no later than 28 January 2025. In January of this year, it was widely reported that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expected to call the election in the second half of 2024. But more recent reports suggest it could occur this May.

The NHS Confederations five priority areas in full are:

  1. Put the NHS on a more sustainable footing, with no top-down structural reform in England for the next parliament. Commit to a short-term stabilisation plan in the first 12 months of a new parliament
  2. Increase NHS capital spending by at least £6.4bn to £14.1bn annually and reform how it operates.
  3. Commit to funding and delivering the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, alongside an equivalent plan for social care
  4. Provide more care closer to home by enabling local health systems to proportionately increase investment into primary care, community-based services, mental health and social care
  5. Deliver a strategy for national health, given that most policy that impacts people’s health is made outside the NHS.

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor said: ‘There is no shortage of analysis and advice about what the NHS needs. This is why we have worked with health leaders across our membership to identify the five most critical priorities for the next government that will set the NHS on a path to recovery and sustainability.

‘Yes, this is about government investment – especially in capital and workforce – but it is also about the government resisting the temptation to waste time and energy on unnecessary reorganisation, about the government working differently to improve the nations’ health and about enabling our members to deliver on the long-delayed aspiration to move resources into prevention, primary and community-based care.’

Last year, Healthcare Leader ran a series into how provider collaboratives are improving patient access and providing integrated primary care.

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