Prevention is better than cure!

Prevention and population health are writ large throughout, and are key, not only to the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) but also to the functioning and development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs). It naturally targets the big areas of obesity, smoking, alcohol, sexual health and antimicrobial resistance; however, the prevention agenda is much wider.

From PCNs right through to the whole Integrated Care System (ICSs) here is a requirement to develop preventative services; at PCN level this is very much reflected in the national service specifications starting in the autumn.

As part of this agenda, there is a need for each PCN to understand their local population health needs - a lesson learned from the Primary Care Home model upon which PCNs are based – and we are finding within our customer base that any plans for service development being put forward by PCNs will need to be underpinned by health needs analysis of the population they serve. And whilst there’s a focus on preventing disease at the outset, where disease exists it’s about taking proactive steps to prevent, or slow, its progression and reducing the need for avoidable referrals, admissions and attendances within the system.

One of the biggest challenges around prevention lies with the population itself and the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Furthermore, there needs to be support in place within local communities to improve self-care and to get that support from the right part of the system when the need arises; for example, for people to access a pharmacy for help first before booking a GP appointment, although the current Covid-19 pandemic may start to change the approach that people take when needing to access services.

Lastly, prevention is about reducing health inequalities and unwarranted variation, and ensuring funding is targeted in the right places; the service specifications that PCNs will be delivering from the autumn support this approach.

This is where your budget impact models and data can play an important role; however, you will need to tie that to the prevention agenda. Think carefully about that and at the same time how you link this to the key agenda of positively impacting the workload and the workforce (please see earlier article on this topic).

Next time, we will explore what population health is and how you can engage on that agenda. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please make contact.

Scott McKenzie is an independent management consultant supporting GP Practices, GP Federations, Primary Care Networks of 30k-50k structure correctly to then deliver high quality patient outcomes with financially viable solutions. Scott is working to support the Pharma, Med Tech and Device Companies better engage and access the NHS. For more information on how we can support you please contact Frances on 0845 388 0302 or email

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