Intended for healthcare professionals


Primary care networks: well intentioned but overambitious

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 05 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5311
  1. Tim Wilson, honorary clinical fellow1,
  2. Richard Lewis, visiting senior fellow2
  1. 1Nuffield Department of Primary Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Nuffield Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: T Wilson tim.wilson{at}

Delivery will take years and substantially more investment

A lot of confidence is being placed in primary care networks to deliver substantial positive change within the NHS in England.1 Indeed, NHS England has outlined ambitious plans for these networks.2 They are expected to stabilise the general practice partnership model, solve the primary care workforce crisis by recruiting 20 000 non-medical staff, dissolve the divide between primary and community care, implement new service specifications for priority clinical areas, demonstrate improved patient care, and become a “proven” platform for local NHS investment.

Primary care networks are groups of general practices collaborating with other community providers to serve populations of 30 000 to 50 000, providing an expanded range of community based services and reducing reliance on hospital care.3 Most (£1.8bn; €2bn; $2.2bn) of the £2.8bn of extra funding for general practice in England over the next five years is being distributed through primary care networks. So it is hardly surprising that 99.7% of English practices have …

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