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How to engage with your local primary care network  

Robana Hussain-Mills ponders how practice nurses can become more involved with their primary care network.

Primary care networks (PCNs) are gathering momentum with new roles such as social prescribers and pharmacists, which has made me think about our existing workforce and how nurses can become more involved with their PCN.

As of today, there are 1,259 networks. Within those, I am sure some nurses are asking why they need to get involved and what it has to do with them, as it is not part of their role and they haven’t got time to read papers or attend meetings. However, other nurses might really want to get involved, but are afraid to ask or lack confidence doing so.

I believe the whole point of PCNs is to be at the heart of health and care provision, improving the health and wellbeing of local people through proactive, accessible and integrated health and care services. As nurses, this presents a great opportunity to utilise our skills, create solutions and increase empowerment to contribute to local planning. We can learn from others and each other, as there is no substitution for a compelling local vision.

Step one: Find out the clinical director(s) for your PCN

This information is widely available: some PCNs have twitter handles – like my own, @ncepcn – while others have newsletters and so on. Once you have a name, make time to meet them: it’s about building relationships and getting to know other people in the PCN.

Step two: Decide what to talk about

Reflect on your strengths and why you do what you do. This can be daunting at first and you may draw a blank but persevere. For example, consider prevention, population health, core general practice and quality improvement, which are some of the areas that PCNs will work on.

My own reflections have included how I engage with patients and help them to own their own health, by being more proactive rather than reactive.  Likewise, as a practice nurse, I am part of the patient’s journey, supporting and listening to them through their long-term condition and sometimes death. I see this as a privilege: I know that when we get the right care for that patient or family, it can be magical.

I hope you have now realised that – as a practice nurse – you are part of the PCN and contribute to it. There is no one way to get involved, but there is a lot to be learned from others.

By being involved at any level within the PCN, it will enable nurses to create a collective voice to influence and drive change for a brighter future for our patients and for ourselves. We must recognise our true value, even more so as we go into the global Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

Robana Hussain-Mills is the practice nurse lead at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCGs, and a deputy clinical director at Nottingham City East PCN.