We speak to the Pharmacist/Pharmacy Team of the Year Award shortlisted pharmacists ahead of this year’s General Practice Awards, to be held on 8 December in London.

The second entry under the spotlight from this year’s shortlist of six is Chester East PCN pharmacy team.

In two and a half years, the PCN pharmacy team has established itself as integral to the four practices in the network. New medication safety processes have been implemented within the practices, while existing ones have been streamlined. A system has been set up for identifying patients who would benefit from structured medication reviews, and then delivering them.

Members have embedded themselves into practice teams, helping to establish the use of new medication pathways for long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and lipid management. They have provided advice to other clinicians and improved communication mechanisms with local community pharmacies, resulting in better working relationships.

The pharmacy team has undertaken a series of strategic initiatives and collaborative efforts. One of their primary areas of focus has been diabetes management, training a select group of pharmacists to initiate GLP-1RAs and insulin while actively identifying eligible patients for Freestyle Libre monitors. This approach has reduced the pressure on secondary care and, in turn, led to shorter patient waiting times.

The team has also automated its high-risk drug monitoring process and integrated CQC medication safety searches into their workflow to ensure both efficiency and adherence to safety standards.

Active involvement in diabetes care extends to providing drug management advice to other healthcare professionals. The team has fostered a collaboration with Roche, explaining the use of the mySugr app to facilitate blood glucose level reviews.

Education and mentorship have always been at the forefront of their mission. Providing placements for pharmacy students from Liverpool John Moores University is a testament to their commitment to nurturing the next generation of pharmacists. They've also taken steps to offer cross-sector placements for pre-registration pharmacists, allowing them to gain valuable experience in both hospital and community pharmacy settings.

The team’s service expansion included the introduction of face-to-face heart failure reviews, with several pharmacists now fully trained for this purpose.

A WhatsApp group with local community pharmacies has been established to streamline information exchange and save time, particularly in addressing supply issues.

To further promote mutual support, the team shares its workload plan and EMIS searches with pharmacists in other PCNs. Additionally, there are opportunities for pharmacists new to primary care to shadow the team during complex structured medication review (SMR) clinics.

The team's commitment to quality extends to conducting detailed audits to review the prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics, ultimately leading to a reduction in their usage.

What they said

Dr Annabel Jones, the PCN’s clinical director, said: ‘The team made a valuable contribution to the running and delivery of the Covid vaccination campaign, particularly the first campaign when we were working at the height of Covid with a new vaccine and the challenges that it brought. During the first phase we delivered over 38,000 vaccines across six months.’

She added: ’I know I can confidently say I don’t know how I managed before without them and that they are a core part of the primary care health team, and their impact on patient management with safer quality prescribing a benefit to all.’

Sharon King, the PCN’s strategic manager, described the pharmacy team as ‘an innovative, positive and collaborative group’ who have made ‘a huge difference to our clinical workload and our patient care.’

She added: ‘They are quick to share their knowledge and skills both in practice and across the PCN, and have been a real asset to our PCN.’

Last year, West Midlands-based pharmacist Helen Kilminster won the Pharmacist of the Year Award after demonstrating she is an advocate for fair and equitable access to healthcare.

See here for more information about this year’s General Practice Awards and the gala dinner and ceremony, which will be held at the Novotel London West on Friday 8 December.