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PCNs critical in population health management

Andi Orlowski

Andi Orlowski, director of the Health Economic Unit at Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit and senior adviser to NHS England on population health management, casts light on the critical role of primary care networks in population health management.

Selected questions from interview published in Pulse PCN, 1 February 2022. Full interview

What’s the current status of population health management (PHM) in England?
The challenge for PHM is using data to identify which interventions are most likely to succeed for an individual based on their wider circumstances and how interventions can be delivered in a way that is most likely to achieve a positive outcome. PCNs and organisations that really understand their populations are best placed to help tailor care to the best effect.

Who is responsible for PHM?
The responsibility lies with all of us. PCNs are critical, not only in the delivery of care but also in providing a deep understanding of local populations. PCNs can shape the care provided by local authorities, NHS providers, public health and beyond. If we are to address ‘health’ and not just healthcare, a wider understanding of what the population needs can only come from a local level. My advice for PCNs is not to wait for the ICS to come knocking but to actively engage with them now. This is the time to act and represent your population.

What is expected of PCNs in terms of PHM?
PCNs should be helping to direct care and support, ensuring the correct interventions are used and addressing unwarranted or harmful variation. PCNs are the engine room of PHM. Their insight and focus on populations will make all the difference.

Are PCNs important for PHM and do you think that is recognised at a system level?
PCNs are critical to successful PHM. Any ICS that does not engage with its PCNs will struggle to have a real understanding of its populations and will miss the key element of tailoring care – after all, how can anyone really understand all the differences in a population of 2-3 million patients? This is not a time to be passive. PCNs must make sure they are heard. If you are in a PCN, do you know who at the ICS you should be contacting? If not, find out.