The inclusion of non-GP providers such as community pharmacies in primary care networks (PCNs) will be ‘a requirement’ from 2020.

NHS England guidance published this month has revealed that the contract PCNs operate under – the network contract direct enhanced service (DES) – will be amended to include these new rules from 2020/21.

The document says: ‘PCNs will increasingly need to work with other non-GP providers as part of collaborative primary care networks in order to offer their local populations more personalised, coordinated health and social care.

‘To support this, the Network Contract DES will be amended from 2020/21 to include collaboration with non-GP providers as a requirement.’

This follows the news that networks ‘should include’ community pharmacies, optometrists and dental providers, according to NHS contract documents.

In February, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette warned that pharmacists working in PCNs could ‘overtake’ community pharmacy.

Non-GP providers ‘essential’

The guidance also states that a network’s success ‘will depend on the strengths of its relationships’ and non-GP providers ‘will be essential in supporting delivery’.

While NHS England have made it clear that networks will be ‘led by groups of general practices’, the new network agreement says that other organisations may also be able to attend decision-making meetings ‘with the agreement of core network practices’.

British Medical Association (BMA) GP Committee chair, Richard Vautrey, said the new requirement will support the existing workforce and help provide care that ‘cannot be done by practices alone’.

‘Many of the areas that a PCN will work on in the coming years will need the support of the existing workforce in the community and one of the goals of these changes is to reinvigorate a genuine primary health care team with practice leadership,’ he said.

‘So for instance, providing more anticipatory care to patients identified with greater needs such as those with severe frailty cannot be done by practices alone but will need the involvement of colleagues in community care.’

A version of this article first appeared on our sister publication Pulse