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 Impact Report 2017, which provides more detail on the range of projects and activities PCN members have been involved in. 

Who chairs the PCN?

Sally Brearley joined the PCN as chair in September 2018. Sally facilitates the research expert group of service users and carers at the Centre for Public Engagement, Kingston and St George's University of London. She has an active interest in patient and public involvement in healthcare, as well as quality of healthcare. She has been involved in patient representation for many years, and published multiple papers. Sally is also a lay member on the Interventional Procedures Advisory Committee at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Speaking about her role as PCN chair, Sally said:

'I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to chair the RCP’s Patient and Carer Network for the next 3 years. It's truly a case of 'standing on the shoulders of giants', as so much excellent work has gone on since the network was established in 2004, and so many people have contributed their time, wisdom, knowledge, skills and experience towards getting it to where it is today.

'Very often in my experience of patient and public involvement, I have found that patients are actually or metaphorically on the outside asking – or sometimes banging on the door – to be let into conversations about their care. It's great, instead, to find myself inside an organisation which recognises, supports and encourages patients, carers and clinicians to work together to improve services for everyone, as well as enhancing the experience of those who receive care and also those who give it.'

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.