The NHS in England is encouraging organisations to work in partnership to take on collective responsibility for resources, providing joined-up, better coordinated care to improve health outcomes within defined populations.
There are a number of terms being used to describe how this is being taken forwards, such as Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs), Integrated Care Systems, Integrated Care Alliances, Primary Care Homes and Primary Care Networks.
Whatever terminology is used, how local health and care leaders work together will ultimately decide how the NHS works in future.
One of the challenges in future will be how we support a system-wide approach to medicines optimisation – putting governance frameworks in place and supporting local pharmacy leaders to help people and the NHS get the most health benefit and the best value from medicines.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society believes that the expertise and clinical knowledge of pharmacists, as medicines experts, working collaboratively across all levels of the NHS, will facilitate services being integrated around the patient, provide the capacity to address the wider workforce challenges, the competency to relieve the pressures within primary care, and the skills to enable system-wide medicines optimisation.
Primary Care Networks
NHS England’s Next Step On The NHS Five year Forward View (2017) included proposals for more GP practices to work together in ‘hubs’ or networks. This builds on the ‘Primary Care Home’ approach championed by the National Association for Primary Care and is based on the premise that a combined patient population of at least 30-50,000 allows practices to share workforce, expand diagnostic facilities, and share responsibility for urgent care and extended access. It notes that they also involve “working more closely with community pharmacists, to make fuller use of the contribution they make”.
NHS England is now working towards expanding ‘Primary Care Networks’ across the country. The Next Steps document noted that there are various routes to achieving this, including GP Federations, Primary Care Homes, and Multispecialty Community Providers.
As local health leaders work together to develop their own approach to Primary Care Networks, the RPS has set out five key considerations to help make the most of the health and care workforce, encourage more joined-up working, and deliver person-centred care.
Key considerations for Primary Care Networks