North East London Integrated Care Board (ICB) has piloted a retention scheme for clinical pharmacists that offers them portfolio roles across general practice and specialist or academic work.

In an interview with our sister title Healthcare Leader the ICB's chief executive Zina Etheridge said the area had particular issues with retention due to the difference between outer and inner London salary weightings.

‘It’s easier to keep people in central London than it is in outer London across both hospitals and general practice,’ she told Healthcare Leader.

Since 2017-18, the salaried portfolio innovation scheme (SPIN) has offered portfolio roles to early career GPs and practice nurses across London, to allow them to do academic work, specialist placements and leadership roles, as well as being in practice.

And North London ICB has piloted the expansion of the scheme to mid-career GPs as well as clinical pharmacists, Ms Etheridge said.

In January, NHS England announced that the national scheme would close from 31 March.

But a North East London ICB spokesperson said the ICB was now ‘looking to [its] own resources to develop SPIN from this year’.

‘This means we can look at potentially expanding the offer beyond newly-qualified GPs and nurses,’ he said.

Ms Etheridge also told Healthcare Leader that the ICB was concentrating on enabling GPs to recruit ARRS (additional roles reimbursement scheme) staff.

‘I know there are some oddities in the scheme, which GPs tell me make it particularly difficult, such as an ARRS role doesn’t always get covered if there has been an existing role. But we are absolutely supporting them to use those roles as fully as possible,’ she said.

And she added that the ICB has recruited more than 1,000 full-time equivalent ARRS roles to work in PCNs since 2018.

Ms Etheridge also said practices in the area have begun using ‘some really interesting innovative triage models’, resulting in ‘some phenomenal rates for same-day access’.

She told Healthcare Leader: ‘I went to see a practice two weeks ago and they’ve gone from a situation where they had no chance of getting through everybody who phoned at eight o’clock to something quite different.

‘On the day that I visited, I went up to the receptionist about three o’clock and a patient could have phoned then and had an appointment on the same day. Now, that wouldn’t necessarily be with the GP – it might have been with a nurse practitioner, advanced nurse practitioner or a pharmacist – but the point is that there’s some really great stuff going on.’

The ICB chief also praised the Pharmacy First scheme, in which community pharmacists see patients from GP referrals and walk-ins for seven common conditions.

‘We also have to blow the trumpet for North East London, who have the highest uptake rate in London for the new Pharmacy First scheme. That’s because it builds on the community pharmacy consultation service, which we have the highest referral rate for in England,’ Ms Etheridge told Healthcare Leader.

In February, Community Pharmacy North East London chief executive Shilpa Shah revealed that the area had seen 8,400 Pharmacy First consultations as a result of GP referrals within the first month of the service.

Read the full interview with Zina Etheridge on Healthcare Leader.