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'Network' of GP practices to be set up in Bucks

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Published by Charlotte Fisher with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Jasmine Rapson at 7:46am 23rd March 2019.

Plans have been unveiled to set up “networks” of GP practices across the county – which will work together to provide care for tens-of-thousands of patients as part of long-term NHS plans to improve care.

Primary Care Networks (PCN) will be made up of clusters of surgeries based in similar areas, as well as social care and voluntary services, who will work together to streamline care provided to patients.

The plans are a “completely different way of providing care and support” in Buckinghamshire, aiming to improve cancer diagnoses and target care to patients who may be at risk of suffering a stroke.

New roles will be introduced and expanded across the community, such as practice-based pharmacists, community paramedics and social prescribers – who will direct residents to alternative types of care if they do not need to see a GP.

Speaking at a meeting of Buckinghamshire County Council’s health and social care select committee this week, GP Martin Thornton said:

“[The government] sees this as providing some additional resilience and support to general practice.

“There is an opportunity for the practices to start working together with other providers, the hospital, voluntary services, social care, mental health to actually build and redefine a new community model of care and make that community place a new exciting place to work.

“It will also be a place where we actually do the preventative work, to prevent patients from going into hospital, which will further down the line be better for patients and will save costs in the system.”

The additional roles aim to provide more support for staff at the surgeries with a view to encourage more graduate doctors to joint general practice.

The PCNs form part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out the health service’s ambition over the next 10- years, focusing on preventing illness, overall population health and improving clinical outcomes for patients.

Dr Penny Macdonald, chair of the federation of GPs across the county, FedBucks, said the new plans will reduce duplication of services so surgeries can “make the very best” of their “limited” services.

The proposals are based on a successful model in Somerset – where there has been a 30 per cent reduction in admissions to hospitals’ emergency departments.

Dr Macdonald said:

“This is based on a really successful community asset in Somerset which has seen a reduction of 30 per cent in their emergency admissions.

“That’s massive, not just in terms of finance but the quality care provided to people who aren’t having to pitch up to A&E.

“They are finding problems across the whole population. They are finding problems earlier, intervening earlier and having much better outcomes.”

A team of medics has been set up to lead the launch of the PCNs which, if approved, are expected to be set up by May this year.

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