PCN conference – key themes and audience feedback

The BMA’s second PCN conference in February was a unique opportunity for nearly 400 attendees to take stock a year after the formation of Primary Care Networks in 2019.

Coming two days after the announcement of a package of changes to the GP contract for 2020/21 it allowed delegates to take stock on these changes, question those that negotiated the package and discuss with peers.

We’ve identified some key themes that emerged from the event as well as captured attendee feedback from the event.

Clarity for PCNs

A key takeaway for delegates was reassurance on the service specifications for PCN. These were significantly shorter (3 pages in the agreement) than the version circulated at the end of 2019 (over 20 pages) with two further services being deferred to 2021/22. In addition, all PCN roles will be reimbursed at 100%, freeing up the existing £1.50/head to contribute to management support for PCNs.

Call for investment in infrastructure

The presentation by BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey was enthusiastic about the benefits that the funding changes, pared-back service expectations, and additional roles would bring but highlighted that with these steps forward, other areas risk falling behind. For example, the logistics of accommodating increased workforces will need to be addressed. He called upon the Government to invest in capital expenditure to ensure all practice premises are fit for purpose.

This, he said, connects to the importance of building care across communities. By investing in capital expenditure, the benefits would include reducing duplication of effort and minimising waste. BMA lobbying to increase investment in healthcare infrastructure will continue. Dr Vautrey shared his views on the GP contract agreement in an earlier BMA blog post.

Additional roles

How are PCNs managing the practicalities, successes, and challenges of integrating new roles into a PCN – particularly when they’re not well-known to patients? Speakers at the event gave examples of how their roles had supported the wider practice teams, freed up GPs’ time and provided services tailored to specific cases.

A key message from the event was for primary care to diversify and grow a practice workforce, we need time – giving time to the new roles to build trusted working relationships, particularly if staff are new to the role, recently qualified or split across multiple sites. The speakers were clear, however, that with open discussions and considerate planning, these challenges can be overcome.

More work to do

Areas highlighted by delegates at the event was the need for more clarity on tax and the tax status of clinical directors. Concerns were raised during sessions with HMRC about this and the BMA has committed to ensuring that clearer answers are provided on this in the coming months.

Attendee feedback

Of nearly 100 attendees surveyed after the event, 89% said the overall quality of the event was excellent or good and 80% said it met their expectations.

When asked to describe the event in three words the most common words used were ‘informative’, ‘useful’ ‘engaging’. One delegate described it as ‘pretty damn good’.

Delegates also shared their positive experiences directly. GP Kamilla Kamaruddin said: ‘[The conference was] really helpful to network, share best practices and even share the unknowns,’ and GP Bert Jindal said: ‘[The conference has been] good for networking, setting standards, and useful for calibration.’

Adrian BrooksPCN conference – key themes and audience feedback