What are Primary Care Networks?

Have you heard of Primary Care Networks (PCNs)? How are they relevant to dentistry...?

What are PCNs?

Primary Care Networks (PCN) have been a key part of the Five Year Forward View and now form part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Originally seen as a GP collaborative system, PCNs are casting the net wider to include other parts of the health service.

PCNs are designed to cover populations of 30,000-50,000 people. The lead for PCNs is via GP practices but other members can include:
  • Community pharmacy
  • Optometrists
  • Dental providers
  • Social care providers
  • Voluntary sector organisations
  • Community services providers
  • Local government.

What is Enhanced Care In Care Homes?

Enhanced care in residential care homes is one of the themes of PCNs. The commitment is that all care homes will be supported by a multi-disciplinary team organised by the PCN, which also includes...

‘’helping care homes ensure their residents have good oral health” 

This is an opportunity for the dental community to develop a model for dentistry in care homes through the PCN multi-disciplinary team. This is an approach which our team has adopted in order to engage with our local Care Home PCN MDT, where we had a dentist or DCP contribute to the weekly local MDT where we:

  • Delivered oral health training for the members of the MDT 
  • Ensured all residents discussed had an oral health assessment if there were concerns about loss of weight or a reduction in appetite
  • Answered queries surrounding the dental implications of polypharmacy and medications such as anti-coagulant therapy
  • Gave general mouth care advice for residents as well as signposting to the appropriate dental services, including domiciliary care
  • Reviewed any resident who was admitted as an inpatient in our hospital to review their oral health
  • Contributing to any safeguarding concerns about specific residents 
  • Provided domiciliary care for residents where appropriate 
  • Facilitated referrals to our hospital Special Care service where appropriate 

This project I presented at the British Society of Gerodontology winter webinar, to see a copy of the poster click here

The dental team does have a role to play in multi-disciplinary care for vulnerable and older patients, such as participation in local PCNs. The increase in the use of virtual meetings has made attendance at such MDTs more feasible and can ensure the oral health of care home residents is considered as part of their overall care.

There is a lack of awareness of oral health and dental services among health and social care professionals that needs to be addressed and so integration of dentistry within PCNs (not just limited to Enhanced Care in Care Homes) needs to be encouraged. 

With 1,250 PCNs across the country, integration needs to be formalised to ensure uniform engagement between dentistry and the rest of healthcare in primary care. This includes contractual and remuneration clarification.​

Do you have any experiences of integration of dentistry within other healthcare services? Please leave them in the comments below

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