New GP networks set to improve surgeries' services in Bishop's Stortford
Better community health and social care services for Bishop's Stortford are being promised through the creation of a new 'primary care network'.
The town is grouped with Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham as part of co-ordinated GP provision for almost 62,000 patients.
The aim of the network is to provide longer surgery opening hours, a wider range of health services – such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and even paramedics – and better links to community support.
Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network (PCN) is one of 12 set up by the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and comprises Stortford's South Street, Church Street and Parsonage practices as well as Central Surgery in Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham Health Centre.
Together it is hoped they will provide "more proactive, personalised, co-ordinated and joined-up health and social care".
PCNs will be able to employ a wider set of staff roles than is possible in most GP practices, such as physios, pharmacists and specialist 'social prescribing' link workers, who are employed to connect people with support and advice services in their local area.
Networks will receive specific funding this year for clinical pharmacists and link workers, with funding for physios, highly-trained clinicians called 'physician associates' and paramedics in subsequent years.
Although PCNs will typically serve populations of 30,000 to 50,000, the Stortford group has 61,997 patients.
Each will appoint a clinical director who is accountable to the other network members and will provide leadership for the PCN's strategic plans.
Beverley Flowers, chief executive of East and North Herts CCG, said: "A key aim of our work is to ensure that health and care services that can be delivered locally are delivered locally, by experts working together to benefit their communities.
"The creation of PCNs is a significant step towards that goal. By joining forces in this way, we can bring together district nurses, pharmacists, GPs and physiotherapists so that people don't have to travel as far to get the specialist help that they need.
"Members of the public who are most likely to benefit from these new ways of working are those who have the most complex health needs, people who need extra help and support to live healthy, happy lives and those who don't have ready access to their own transport."