Role of specialists in Primary Care Networks

November 29, 2018

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are being developed with the goals of providing greater patient access to long-term primary care and to give providers a foundation to deliver better quality care. While the BC government is leading this work, in order to be successful PCNs will require the involvement of  doctors, other allied health care professionals, government and medical administrators; with the patients at the center. While many communities have informal clinical networks – it will take more than a few years to build comprehensive PCNs into a system-wide reality.


Currently, PCN work is concentrated on the delivery of primary care within 11 “first wave” communities. The plan is to take the lessons learned and processes developed, to help spread the work across all BC communities. 

Defining the specialists role 

While the focus is on primary care, specialists have an important role within PCNs. In a recent SSC Co-chair’s letter it was noted that we are in early stages, but through all the joint collaborate committees there is a shared responsibility to stay focused on identifying when specialist participation and input is needed through-out the full PCN planning process.

Here are just two examples of work underway within Doctors of BC and the Government of BC’s joint collaborative committees to enhance GPs and specialists collaboration in support of PCNs’ goals. The Specialist Services Committee (SSC) Enhancing Access Initiative supports eight groups of specialists around the province to improve access to care while streamlining communication between specialists, family physicians and patients; e.g., the Kelowna Bone and Joint Clinic, has reduced wait times to orthopedic care by 40%. The Shared Care Coordinated Seniors Care Initiative: this initiative focuses on engaging specialists to help better connect them to other providers and family caregivers, and to create an integrated approach to care at the community level. The initiative focuses on older adults with multiple complex conditions.

Integration of specialists in the early stages 

As the work evolves, discussions will deepen and the focus on integrating and linking more effectively with specialists will become more prominent. Some plans underway for including specialists in PCN planning at the provincial, regional, and community levels include:

  • The GPSC is taking steps to encourage the inclusion of specialists in PCN planning and conversations at the provincial, regional, and community levels moving forward.
  • At the provincial level, the GPSC and Specialist Services Committee (SSC) are working with the Ministry of Health to revise the PCN expression of interest and service plan templates to include a section on specialists’ engagement and role in PCN; acknowledging that it will need to be clarified as the work evolves.
  • The GPSC staff are supporting Collaborative Services Committees (CSCs), which include representatives from local divisions, health authority and the Ministry of Health to include specialists in PCN planning and conversations at the local and regional levels.

 If you are a physician who wants more information or to provide feedback, please email: