Primary care networks (PCNs) will include community pharmacies, optometrists and dental providers, according to new NHS contract documents.

Networks will be expected to have ‘wide-reaching’ membership to offer ‘more personalised, coordinated health and social care’ to their local populations, NHS England said in a new PCN frequently asked questions document.

PCNs are a major part of the new five-year GP contract, and will each cover a patient population of between 30,000 and 50,000, with all patients being covered by a network - even if not all practices join them.


'Wide-reaching membership'


But the in the latest document outlining the networks, NHS England has made it clear that they will not only include GP practices.

The document said: ‘Primary care networks will be expected to have a wide-reaching membership, led by groups of general practices.

‘This should include providers from the local system such as community pharmacy, optometrists, dental providers, social care providers, voluntary sector organisations, community services providers or local government.’

Despite this, general practice must remain at the core of networks, it added.

‘If a PCN does not have a core set of GPs and practices, it is not a PCN – the Network Contract DES is a mechanism for flowing funding to PCNs, and general practice is expected to be the core around which primary care networks are built upon,’ the document said.


Not always GP-led


NHS England revealed last month that PCNs would not have to be led by a GP, but that ‘any clinician’ in general practice would be able to take charge as clinical director.

In February, National Pharmacy Association chief executive Mark Lyonette warned that pharmacists working in PCNs could 'overtake' community pharmacy.

A version of this article was first published by our sister publication Pulse