Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of GP Practices working together to develop localised healthcare services for their patients.

PCNs are based on GP Practice registered lists, typically serving natural communities of around 30,000 to 50,000 patients. They should be small enough to provide the personal care valued by both patients and healthcare professionals, but large enough to have impact and economies of scale through collaboration between GP Practices and other partners in the local health and social care system.

How are they formed?

Most networks are geographically based and, between them, cover all practices within a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) boundary. In North Tyneside there are four Primary Care Networks: Wallsend PCN, North Shields PCN, Whitley Bay PCN and North West North Tyneside PCN that cover all the GP Practices in North Tyneside.

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Since June 2019 over 99% of GP Practices are part of a PCN, and have signed up to the Network Contract DES which details their core requirements and entitlements.

Together with Clinical Commissioning Groups, PCNs provide the structure and funding through new network contracts for services to be developed locally, in response to the needs of the patients they serve. 

Who are Primary Care Networks accountable to?

Practices are accountable to their Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for the delivery of network services. Practices will sign a network agreement, a legally binding agreement between the practices setting out how they will discharge the responsibilities of the network. 

Primary Care Networks can also use this agreement to set out the network's wider objectives and record the involvement of other partners, for example community health providers and pharmacies, though these partners will not be part of the core network, as that can only be entities who hold a GP contract. 

Each Primary Care Network has an identified accountable Clinical Director who is appointed by network members. In North Tyneside all four PCN Clinical Directors are also local GPs. Some networks are also investing in network manager roles to provide additional support for their PCN teams to deliver even better services for their local populations.