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 Royal College of Physicians (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?

Elisabeth Davies joined the PCN as chair in 2015. She has experience of caring and volunteering and as part of her career has a particular interest in developing services that are person-focused and safe. Elisabeth is committed to working closely with individual patients and carers and patient groups and organisations, to listen and learn from experiences to drive up quality standards in both health and social care services.

Elisabeth sits on the RCP Council, supporting the strategic direction of the PCN across its projects, priorities and representation within and outside the RCP. She is a regular patient ambassador at conferences and external events.

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 longterm 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 individual 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.

Volunteering roles provide an opportunity to be part of the RCP’s online Patient and Carer community. This is an online group where PCN members come together to discuss health and social care and comment on hot topics and documents. Volunteers who have more time to contribute may be asked to join the RCP’s PCN forum. Forum member roles vary, but members may participate in specific projects, attend events or contribute to focus groups.