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3 key strategies to enhance engagement in your primary care network

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

At THC Primary Care, we provide resources for primary care leaders, and this week’s blog is for you if you are feeling drained and discouraged by the lack of engagement within your Primary Care Network.


In this blog, we share:

1️⃣ 14 tried and tested methods to support engagement in your PCN

2️⃣ Further insight into the Primary Care Network management role and the challenges associated with this boundary-spanning role

3️⃣ 3 additional strategies to consider aiding you in influencing and engagement

4️⃣ Advice from Dr Partha Kar, National Speciality Lead for Diabetes

Let's jump in!


When it comes to engagement, you may have tried:

1️⃣ Bringing food to meetings

2️⃣ Organising social events or lunch and learns

3️⃣ Regularly visiting your practices

4️⃣ Changing the time, location and frequency of meetings  

5️⃣ Surveying your practices to find out what they want and need

6️⃣ Showcasing case studies from other networks

7️⃣ Highlighting all of the requests that the network has delivered on

8️⃣ Regularly showcasing how the network is achieving its key performance indicators

9️⃣ Communicating any funds that have been passed back to practices as a result of your PCNs work

1️⃣ 0️⃣ Bidding for funds to deliver services on behalf on your network

1️⃣ 1️⃣ Producing a regular newsletter

1️⃣ 2️⃣ Passing on positive patient testimonials to your practices

1️⃣ 3️⃣ Regularly reiterate the benefits and the problems that network-level working aims to solve.

1️⃣ 4️⃣ You have brought in a facilitator to help the network facilitate their vision and values


If there are some areas in this list you haven’t consistently deployed, take another look at these strategies.


Understanding your role


Before I share further strategies to support you, it's worth highlighting that the PCN management role is a complex one. It’s a boundary-spanning role that requires you to work across multiple organisational cultures, hierarchies and power dynamics, politics, and personal motives.


Every role faces these challenges, but the added complexity is in the multiple organisations you interact with. It’s a lot, and developing relationships in an environment where colleagues are extremely busy, pressured, and uncertain about the future adds another competing force to contend with.


Your role is also to act as a guide that mediates, negotiates, facilitates, coordinates, avoids political traps, leverages the skills and knowledge of others, seeks accountability, and tries to lead the majority to a consensus.


If you have exhausted the strategies listed earlier in this blog, and there is still a feeling that key individuals in the network still do not want to engage despite your best efforts, try this.


1. Go outside the scope of your JD.


Your role as a network leader is to invest time in understanding the environment you work in and to raise your visibility during this process. You do not need to sit in the practice all of the time if you work remotely, but your colleagues will need to see you and also see you supporting them, not asking for anything in return.


Ask to spend a day in reception or in the admin office.


I once helped change the surgical curtains, which were out of date and helped with some cleaning to support their practice during their CQC visit. This small act was a game-changer. Spending time in the practice to help me understand their world a bit more was so helpful to me, and it helped them see me in a different light.


2. Change the messenger


Sometimes, your role requires you to lead from the front, and sometimes, you need to lead from behind, enabling others to deliver the message on your behalf.


Not everyone will want to hear from you.


Not everyone will trust the credentials or experience required to do the role, and some people won’t like you.

No not fight this and try to convince the people otherwise. Your role is to serve the network and to support it to get the best possible results for staff and your patients, and this may require a different messenger.


Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting you leave your role. This is where your other clinical leads and practice manager leads are needed.


Identify your allies and work with them to help you understand the different perspectives in your network.



3. Stop trying to obtain 100% consensus


Using the tactic above, Dr Partha Kar can offer some advice on trying to gain buy-in and consensus building in the clip below.


Partha is a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trusts.  Partha also holds two other national roles and has over 24 years of experience working within the NHS.


Partha is the national speciality lead for diabetes and has led the introduction of hybrid closed-loop technology for those living with type 1 diabetes. A technology which my youngest daughter benefits from.


My key takeaway from this conversation is you can’t win them all, and it's OK. Focus on your critical mass, switch up the messenger and use other key people of influence to support you.


I hope this helps.


About the Author

Tara and Team THC provide project and network management and training to Primary Care Networks. Between our training programmes, facilitation and interim network programmes, we have now supported over 120 PCNs.

Tara has an MBA in Healthcare Leadership and Management, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care, is the author of over 200 blogs, and also hosts The Business of Healthcare Podcast.


Tara and Team THC provide project and network management and training to Primary Care Networks. Between our training programmes, facilitation and interim network programmes, we have now supported over 120 PCNs.

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