Primary Care


Primary Care Networks were introduced in 2019 to help the NHS meet the changing needs of patients.

With the population growing, living longer, and more of us with long-term health conditions, more people need to access local health and social care services more often.

What it means

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of GP practices working together to improve care for populations of 30,000 to 50,000 patients.

Because more people need to use more services, there has been a steady increase in GP practices working closely with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary organisations.

This is largely due to a growing and ageing population and more people living with long-term conditions or taking more types of medication.

PCNs formalise areas of this co-working, and allow for clearer treatment paths for patients, as well as cost efficiencies and sharing of resources.

How it works

The size of PCNs means they benefit from economies of scale when buying resources, but can still keep a personal relationship with patients.

Health initiatives across networks mean more consistent, holistic approaches to how conditions or issues are dealt with, and better integration into care services.

The networks allow specialist staff to work across practices, providing services individual practices couldn’t finance individually.

We recruit and deploy specialist staff like Clinical Pharmacists, Physiotherapists and Social Prescribing Link Workers to work across the 3 PCNs in Durham Dales.

Patients may see a specialist in their local practice, rather than a GP. This is often quicker for patients, and frees up GP appointments for other patients.

How it helps

Primary Care Networks have 7 key areas which all focus on improving patients’ health.

  • Structured medication reviews – particularly aimed at reducing over prescribing.
  • Improving health of care home residents.
  • Anticipatory care – focussing on prevention of illness rather than treatment.
  • Personalised care to help people manage their own physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Early cancer diagnoses through full and quick uptake of screenings.
  • A Cardio-vascular disease testing programme to find undiagnosed patients.
  • Tackling inequalities.


In 2019, Gillian started work as a PCN Social Prescribing Link Worker.

Gillian Bruce, Social Prescribing Link WorkerI’m one of 3 Social Prescribing Link Workers at DDHF with each of us covering one Primary Care Network.

I spend my days with anyone aged 18 or over who needs help.

I assess their needs, and make a plan which connects them to non-clinical services near them, like community groups, local charities or Citizens Advice.