GP practices across Norfolk and Waveney are working closely together as part of a new approach to improve access and services for patients.
There are now 17 primary care networks (PCNs) serving Norfolk and Waveney and each will typically look after between 30,000 and 50,000 patients.
Primary care networks are new groups of GP practices working closely together with other community, mental health and social care staff to improve services for local people.
By forming these networks surgeries and practices will be able to offer patients more convenient access to treatment and support from a variety of health, care and other professionals.
Extra funding has been made available to each group of surgeries to enable them to attract new staff to five specialist roles over the next five years. This will happen gradually with social prescribing link workers and clinical pharmacists attached to each network this year. In the coming years they will be joined by community paramedics, physiotherapists and physician associates.
Across the country, around 7,000 GP practices have signed-up to the new model which is supported by billions of pounds of extra investment and forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
By offering extra care options to people locally, and by making more use of technology for online consultations and appointments, it is hoped to free up clinicians time to concentrate on more urgent cases.
As well as more convenient access to treatment, GPs will be supported to do more to tackle conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, while also offering more support for people with conditions like depression and anxiety.
Sadie Parker, Associate Director of Primary Care for the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups of Norfolk and Waveney, said: “Primary Care Networks are essentially groups of GP practices working together alongside other health and care partners to deliver improved care for patients. This collaborative approach has the potential to have great benefits, particularly at a time when general practice is facing such intense resource and workforce pressures.
“PCNs are still in the very early stages of development but as we move forward patients will start to see the benefits with networks offering more convenient access to treatment and support from a wider range of healthcare professionals including clinical pharmacists, social prescribing link workers, physiotherapists and others.
“There will also be a greater emphasis on people’s social and emotional wellbeing with PCNs working closely with wider partners such as local authorities, the voluntary sector and community groups. Work is now underway to tailor health and care services to local need and identify who is best placed to deliver it.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, said:
“The extra investment, additional staff and more convenient care will be a game-changer for NHS patients as family doctors come together in networks which will not only deliver better care, but a more efficient use of vital NHS resources.”