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Challenges And Opportunities For Pcn And Social Prescribing Link Workers

Introduction - Challenges And Opportunities For Pcn And Social Prescribing Link Workers

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SPLWs come within the scope of PCN (a network of general practitioners). SPLWs take on the job to refer patients to appropriate Voluntary, Community Social Enterprises (VCSE organisations) who offer support to patients with severe or minor conditions or even those with disabilities. SPLWs can also refer to other statutory services, government health services or community groups. The main task of SPLWs is to focus on a patient's health and wellness and empower such patients to overcome health problems by linking (signposting) them to the appropriate treatment facilities. This service is only limited to patients with physical problems but also those with mental health issues and complex social needs. Usually, a patient can contact PCNs and eventually SPLWs through agencies like social care services, pharmaceuticals, hospital discharge teams, and so on and so forth.


The challenges faced by PCNs and SPLWs are as follows:-

  1. Every PCN has a Clinical director who plays a key role in leading the organisation. However, PCNs being a comparatively newer set-up, many Clinical directors are not yet compatible with the leadership roles given to them.
  2. There is a lack of specific management funding for PCN. The direct funds received are so low that they can only help to create a structure that has to be open for funding from other streams. There is financial uncertainty to fund for projects that support patients from charities.
  3. Some PCNs and SPLWs have better links, relationships and referrals than others. There are PCNs who couldn't develop enough connections with VSCE organizations and other community groups and have a limited role to play. Not building enough community links means that patients have fewer options available.
  4. Patients often might not use the service signposted to them. SPLWs often have to deal with the whims and fancies of such patients, and serving them becomes an added effort.
  5. The workload and shortage of capacity is a serious problem for SPLWs. PCNs being a new organization have limited capacity. Therefore, additional work above their basic capacity of service provision cannot be taken up; even if they want all patients cannot be served. Some PCNs do not even have dedicated premises and are using shared ones. The resilience of the organization and the workforce can go for a toss.
  6. Training staff and educating them about PCNs can be a tedious task. PCNs and SPLWs are not like any other healthcare service but it has major functions like researching and connecting with newer organisations to provide patients with the best facilities available.
  7. Patients with learning difficulties might require additional support like bespoke services. They can cost additional money over and above the basic charges.


The various opportunities that await PCNs and SPLWs are as follows:-

  1. PCNs provide an opportunity for system collaboration whereby all healthcare facilities are available to serve patients. This makes the organization more famous, in the present times.
  2. The global Pandemic has opened a wide range of opportunities for PCNs to function. Many PCNs initiated vaccination drives and referred patients to hospitals with available beds. This establishes the value of the organization and requirement of PCNs and SPLWs for population-based care, at a large scale, going forward.
  3. PCNs and SPLWs have opportunities to tackle health inequalities along with developing long-Covid clinics, vaccine rollouts, etc.
  4. PCNs have the opportunity to bring Allied Health Professionals into general practice thereby reducing workload for the General Practitioners.


Integrated care systems (ICSs) are incomplete without the service of SPLWs. PCNs has an aim to focus on self-care and prevention along with population health management. SPLWs want to provide more personalized care so that patients can make decisions regarding their own health. A number of Challenges and Opportunities for the PCNs and SPLWs have been discussed in detail. The role of PCNs and SPLWs has been established to be extremely crucial for the well-being of the communities and its people.

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