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Primary care networks in the spotlight

Adam Siwak looks at primary care network companies and their relationship with pharmacy...

Primary care networks (PCNs) were initially formed by GPs as contractual joint ventures to serve communities of between 30,000 and 50,000 patients. The contractual relationship between the GP practices within the PCN is outlined in a PCN's Network Agreement.

Since the launch of PCNs on 1 July 2019, a number of PCNs have considered, or taken steps to form separate PCN companies. These companies are usually formed for the purpose of employing staff on behalf of the PCN, however different PCNs may operate such companies for different reasons and the position may change in the future.

Clinical pharmacists currently employed or engaged by PCNs may, if the PCN has or is aiming to form a separate limited company, find their employment being transferred to that separate limited company.

If this is the case, you should be clear who your employer is, and seek confirmation that your access to the NHS Pension Scheme will not be affected as a result of any change to your employment. This should be discussed with the clinical pharmacist during the consultation phase required by law in relation to staff transfers.

Some community pharmacies or local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) may already be collaborating with PCNs, and in situations where PCNs are forming limited companies, it is important to be clear what the purpose of the company is and whether you need to be engaging with the PCN or the company.

In most cases, the PCN company will exist to provide services to the PCN, and in those instances the contractual relationship will remain with the PCN. If, however, the PCN company is being set up with the intention of holding clinical contracts or for other purposes, it may be necessary to consider whether any contracts or memorandums of understanding need to be assigned to the PCN company or new contracts entered into.

This may be relevant if, for example, there are arrangements to provide staff or services to PCNs, or arrangements for occupation sharing with PCNs.

In the first instance transparency and open dialogue between PCNs and stakeholders would allow the parties to make necessary arrangements.

Whilst LPCs or community pharmacies may be identified in PCN Network Agreements as key stakeholders (PCNs were required by the PCN Network DES specification to detail arrangements the PCN has with community pharmacies by 30 September last year), it is not envisaged that pharmacy providers will hold shares in PCN companies.

Adam Siwak is a healthcare corporate solicitor at VWV. He can be contacted at asiwak@vwv.co.uk




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