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Case Study – North Devon Primary Care Networks Workforce Planning


Skills for Health together with Health Education England South West, the Devon Training Hub, and 4 North Devon Primary Care Networks (PCN), successfully piloted an approach to workforce planning (WP) specifically designed for primary care.

Effective design, development and deployment of the workforce is one of the most important things required to underpin primary care services sustainability in the short, medium, and long term. The challenges cannot be understated:

  • Meeting health and care needs in the context of rising demand and complexity – changing population health needs
  • Achieving greater service integration while meeting financial imperatives – the transformation challenge
  • Ensuring the right skills are available to achieve consistent health benefits to the local population – the workforce challenges

To be able to achieve all this an approach was needed that connected population health needs, service transformation and workforce planning in a meaningful way, without over-complicating things.

Additionally, there were opportunities available through the NHS Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme for primary care to further enhance multidisciplinary working. This would require careful analysis of what skills were needed and how that translated into the different Multi-Disciplinary Team roles. Issues around an ageing workforce and difficulties with recruitment and retention added to the sustainability challenge.

The primary care workforce is recognised as the key asset of service provision so effective integrated workforce development plans are crucial for the sustainability of primary care services and the continuity of quality patient care.

“GPs are always busy, but workforce planning can help to alleviate the pressure points and is worth the investment of time to reap the benefits later”. Daisy Robinson GP Partner College Surgery Partnership.

”Networks need to work together and learn together if they are to become mature and this was a great opportunity to do that.” Programme participant.


The key aim of the pilot project was to evaluate if, providing a WP framework specifically tailored for primary care, developing participants WP knowledge and skill, together with expert support and facilitation could enable PCNs to develop a meaningful workforce plan successfully.

The programme consisted of 5 virtual interactive workshops spread over 12 weeks, together with the provision of templates, tools and associated resources and online consultancy support.

The final aim was to review the suitability of the framework and approach to be rolled out to support other PCNs with workforce planning.


  • Skills for Health Primary Care Network Workforce Planning Framework and approach, has successfully engaged participating PCNs in the workforce planning process.
  • The approach taken has facilitated increased levels of collaborative working across PCN practices and promoted new dialogues around shared workforce solutions.
  • Over 70% of attendees thought the programme provided an extensive, structured, and practical approach to workforce planning and now felt confident to engage in workforce planning activities.
  • The workforce development programme has facilitated a coordinated approach to the recruitment and retention of some staffing posts across PCNs.
  • The PCNs involved now understand the imperative link between local population demographics, health needs analysis, and the impact on workforce planning for future primary care services.
  • The pilot demonstrated that PCNs are at different stages of maturity and that to roll to other PCNs requires an adaptable menu of support recognising that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ to support their workforce planning in practice.

“The sessions were engaging and transformed workforce planning from an enormous and complex thing into something doable.” Daisy Robinson GP Partner College Surgery Partnership.

“Working with Skills for Health, using their approach to Workforce Planning, was a very positive process, the action learning sets were pitched just right for us and the facilitators gave us just the right level of challenge. It was great to have that protected time for some blue-sky thinking, I don’t mean it was airy-fairy, it absolutely wasn’t. It was our first introduction to population health management, and we are now hooked and working on a collaborative project on that too!” Melanie Cullen, Practice Manager, Barnstable Alliance Primary Care Networks.

The future

The pilot was positively received by all those involved and has demonstrated that the Skills for Health PCN Workforce Planning Framework has value in underpinning the development of robust PCN workforce plans. The framework and approach SFH offer have been specifically designed to be flexible in its application, recognising that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and therefore can be adapted to meet the diverse workforce planning needs of different PCNs.

Workforce planning support, provided by our team of specialist consultants will enable PCNs to help plan their workforce more effectively based on population and health needs data and utilise their ARRS funding effectively to best meet the changing needs of their populations.

As a result of the piloting, the Framework is now available as a fully flexible programme which can be tailored to meet the requirements of individual Primary Care Networks across England and Clusters across Wales.