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Publication, Part of

Primary Care Network Workforce 31 December 2020

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Data Quality - December 2020

Data Completeness and Coverage

This is the fourth time that information about the PCN workforce has been published. By 31 December 2020, around 93% of PCNs had activated user accounts on the National Workforce Reporting System (NWRS) tool, which is the system used to collect data on the PCN and General Practice workforces. Although many of these users were already experienced with the GP practice-level submissions, this was a new collection early in 2020 and completion rates were initially very low.

This is a relatively new collection and the completeness and coverage of the data is gradually improving. When we first collected data on the PCN Workforce in March 2020, we received valid data from 15% of active PCNs, which increased to 40% in June 2020.  User feedback and other evidence suggest that the NWRS completion rates by PCN users were adversely affected early in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, data coverage and completeness continue to be low - even for a new data collection - which should be taken into consideration when reviewing the figures. For September 2020, 50% of active PCNs had submitted data, which has risen to 60% for this release of data for December 2020. We continue to work with PCNs and other stakeholders to improve the data quality.

Of the 1,253 PCNs active during the fourth quarter of 2020:

  • 93% had activated their NWRS user account by the end of December 2020 and 758  (60.5%), across 119 of the 135 CCGs, had submitted data including 30 CCGs where every PCN submitted workforce data.
  • Conversely, all PCNs in 16 CCGs failed to submit any valid workforce data.
  • Seventeen PCNs provided information about contracted services only; as we cannot determine how many people are working in the applicable roles, this means that these PCNs show a count of zero in the PCN-level headcount Table (2b) and the England-level headcounts presented in Table 1b are based upon returns from 741 PCNs .

The PCN population is still evolving, the size of their respective workforces varies, and from their inception, there was always an expectation that the PCN workforce would grow over time as new roles were introduced. For example, in September 2020, 79% of the PCNs submitting workforce information reported fewer than five FTE staff, while by December this figure had fallen to 37%.  Initially, targeted funding focused on the recruitment of Clinical Pharmacists and Social Prescribing Link Workers, and additional roles have gradually been introduced such as the recently added Care Coordinators and Health and Wellbeing Coaches.

In December 2020, 350 PCNs provided details of their clinical directors, of which 11 were sharing the responsibility between a Medical Director (GP) and a Nursing or Direct Patient Care clinical director. Clinical director submissions from a further 15 PCNs failed data validation as no working hours were provided, and the affected records had to be excluded.

The figures reported in this release are effective on 31 December 2020. However, because the data are not complete and the coverage is poor, users should be mindful that these figures may not be properly representative of the size of the PCN workforce.

PCN Structure and Membership

The PCNs are still developing; a small number of GP practices have changed their PCN membership at some point since July 2019, while a few practices left their original PCN without joining another. In addition, some PCNs that were created during 2019 or later have subsequently merged into a single organisation while others have divided to form several new PCNs. For this reason, the count of PCNs varies between reporting periods.

Contracted Services

Some direct patient care staff may be employed by another organisation and deployed to a PCN as "contracted service". These roles were previously described in this publication as "pooled resource" and are described in the Background and Data Sources sections in March's release and in the Background Data Quality section. In such cases, it is possible that these staff are also counted in other Official Statistics, such as those for the NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) workforce.  Table 1c in the Bulletin Tables provides England-level FTE counts for contracted services and the percentage contribution these contracted staff make to the overall FTE total shown in Table 1a to help you to understand and quantify the potential scale of double-counted staff.

Please refer to the Background Data Quality section for more general information about the PCN data quality and the National Workforce Reporting System (NWRS).

Last edited: 24 February 2021 5:17 pm