Many GP surgeries in Bucks struggling with increased demands and pressures

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Many GP surgeries in Bucks are struggling with increased demands and pressures on premises and staffing levels, a new review has found.

Bucks Council’s Health and Adult Social Care (HASC) Select Committee has reported the findings of its review into the development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) across the county,

It found PCNs are developing at very different rates across Bucks, especially when it comes to recruiting into new community healthcare roles including mental health practitioners, nurses and paramedics.

Primary Care Networks bring together groups of GP practices in a geographical areaPrimary Care Networks bring together groups of GP practices in a geographical area
Primary Care Networks bring together groups of GP practices in a geographical area

PCNs form a key building block of the NHS Long-Term Plan, announced in 2019, bringing GP practices in a geographical area together to work at scale, with the aim of improving their ability to recruit and retain staff, provide a wider range of services and integrate more easily with the wider health and care system.

Bucks currently has 13 PCNs – including the BMW and Maple PCNs covering Aylesbury, the Westongrove PCN covering Aston Clinton and Wendover, the Phoenix Health PCN covering Haddenham, Chinnor and Monks Risborough, the North Bucks PCN covering Winslow and the villages north of Aylesbury and the Swan PCN covering the Buckingham area.

HASC Select Committee chair Jane MacBean reported the review’s findings to Bucks Council’s cabinet yesterday (Tuesday).

It found many GP surgeries are struggling with increased demands and pressures on accommodation and staffing levels, and many GP websites have out-of-date information and are not user friendly for patients.

The role played by Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) in working with PCNs to improve services and patient experiences varies widely and could be greatly improved.

And work to bring together services under the newly formed Bucks, Oxon and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB) earlier this year has impacted some elements of PCN development following the disbanding of the former Bucks Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Cllr MacBean said: “This inquiry was by no means an attempt to criticise our healthcare colleagues for failing to achieve what is clearly a big ask.

"Primarily what we wanted to do was to gain a greater understanding of the issues facing GP practices and PCNs in meeting the demands of the NHS’s Long-Term Plan and to look at how we as a local authority can support these changes and developments so we can work together to bring about improvements for our communities.”

The report’s recommendations include closer links between health and social care practitioners and services, and better communications across the board to improve joint working and share best practice.

It recommends a dedicated Network Manager role be appointed within each PCN, along with ICB investment to improve GP websites.

The role of Patient Participation Groups in supporting PCNs and liaising with local communities should be developed, it says.

Angela Macpherson, cabinet member for adults and health, said: “We know that the past few years have been incredibly tough on our colleagues in the healthcare service and as a council we are committed to working together with them to bring about the changes needed.

"Primary care is the lynchpin of our healthcare service and so it is important that our PCNs are robust and able to meet the demands placed on them.”

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