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Patient and Carer Network (PCN)

The Patient and Carer Network (PCN) is a network of volunteers in England and Wales who support and shape the work of the RCP. 

What does the PCN do?

The PCN aims to improve care for patients and influence the future of health and healthcare by:

  • supporting the RCP to listen to what patients and carers need from doctors and the health service
  • championing person-centred care and patient safety by influencing the way that healthcare is designed and delivered
  • advocating for health and care services that support people to manage long-term health conditions and are joined up across hospitals and the community
  • upholding the principles of patient care that underpin the RCP’s Future Hospital Programme
  • working with the RCP to help ensure patients and carers have access to the information they need.

Examples of how the PCN has worked to achieve these aims are highlighted in the PCN Annual Report 2019-20 which provides more detail on the range of projects and activities PCN members have been involved in. 

The PCN believes patient and carer involvement should be:

  • Meaningful: patients and carers participating meaningfully in RCP work to support and influence real improvements in health and health care for all
  • Collaborative: building understanding across the RCP and externally that working with patients and carers leads to better outcomes
  • Accessible: being inclusive and communicating information clearly, openly and in accessible formats for all
  • Responsive: patients and carers, RCP colleagues and stakeholders sharing successful work in public and patient involvement across the RCP and beyond.

The PCN is a key partner in supporting and influencing the work of RCP speciality committees, boards and working groups.

In 2018 the Patient Involvement Unit (PIU) and PCN began a piece of work to evaluate patient involvement on RCP committees. The evaluation resulted in the PIU and PCN being able to produce some clear guidance and recommendations that encourage the ongoing development of patient involvement at the RCP, while also supporting lay representatives who volunteer their time on committees and projects.

The recommendations support committees in considering the best approach to involving patients, carers and lay representatives, and some best practice guidance to follow once they are involved. The areas covered in the recommendations include:

  • general principles
  • planning
  • recruitment
  • supporting and valuing
  • monitoring and evaluating.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the RCP need to listen to patients and carers?

There’s a lot of evidence that meaningful patient engagement not only improves patient experience and satisfaction, but can also make services more effective. 

The PCN provides people with an important platform to share their experiences of being a patient or carer. The RCP uses these experiences to help identify areas for improvement and to understand what patients and carers need from health services. This is used to develop guidance and recommendations for the RCP’s member doctors, healthcare teams, hospitals and government.

The RCP is increasing the number and diversity of patients and carers it works with. By expanding the PCN, the RCP hopes to ensure that its work meets needs across different groups and communities. 

How are PCN members chosen?

Any person across England and Wales with or without a long-term medical condition can apply to join the PCN. There are no formal skills or qualifications required to join the PCN. All our members share an interest in improving health and healthcare, and an awareness of current health and social care issues. The RCP understands that the time people have to give to volunteering varies and works flexibly to support members according to the time that they can give. 

Does the RCP cover volunteer expenses?  

All patients, carers and members of the public who undertake voluntary work for the RCP are reimbursed for reasonable expenses, including travel and any necessary overnight accommodation. We operate a disability-friendly policy, doing our best to ensure reasonable adjustments where required.

What does the RCP offer its volunteers?

The RCP aims to offer all volunteers a valuable experience that ensures the voices of a diverse group of patients and carers are heard and included in the work that it does. The RCP offers flexibility to support volunteers to participate at a time and in a way that suits members’ availability, interests, skills, experience and lifestyle.