Alongside the national launch of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) by NHS England on Monday 1 July, Gloucestershire is being recognised as a ‘leading light’ in making joined up healthcare a reality on the ground.

Gloucestershire’s 74 GP practices are already working together in 14 PCNs across the county and are making over 100,000 additional GP surgery appointments available this year in the daytime, evening and weekends.

The extra appointments are mainly provided by GPs and nurses, and in some networks by paramedics and physiotherapists, offering a greater range of skills and services and freeing up GP time to spend with patients who have complex needs.

Paramedics are working in a number of networks to carry out home visits in the community, which is saving GPs around 120 visits a month, whilst physiotherapists in other networks are offering more than 180 appointments.

There are also more than 40 clinical pharmacists working in practices offering expert advice on medications, along with three mental health practitioners, who see around 65 patients a week.

The additional health professionals often work across practices providing clinics and extra appointments. Patients are signposted to the most appropriate health professional, relieving pressure on GP appointments.

Joined up community health and social care team are an integral part of the PCNs and are delivering care in people’s homes, reducing the need for hospital stays and helping people to return home from hospital sooner.

This includes support for people who are have long term health conditions, are frail or have dementia.

Through these innovations and strong partnership working in PCNs, more patients are being treated close to home.

The PCN model is one of the new national approaches recently unveiled in the NHS’s Long Term Plan.

Clinical Chair of NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and local GP, Dr Andy Seymour said:

“As part of today’s national launch, it is great to see that Gloucestershire has been recognised for the significant progress that GP practices, community services and other partners have already made on the ground in developing Primary Care Networks.

We know that sometimes there is a propensity to talk about structures in the NHS, but what people really care about is being able to get timely advice, support and care when they need it most and the majority of this can be provided in local communities.

We are in exciting times and it really feels like a team effort to support our patients.”

Joint Medical Director of Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Amjad Uppal said:

“PCNs have a major role to play in promoting care outside of hospital and maintaining the independence of vulnerable people in our community.

The increased profile and emphasis on community services is heartening to see and we are already seeing what can be achieved when GP surgery, community and mental health services work hand in glove on the ground. This has the joint benefit of offering better outcomes for people, while taking the pressure off our hospitals.

The progress made here is testament to the strong partnerships that have been fostered over a number of years in Gloucestershire, including with the community and voluntary sector.”