It is ‘bloody difficult’ for community pharmacies to collaborate with each other in primary care networks (PCNs), the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
Simon Dukes told delegates at a Westminster Health Forum conference on the future of pharmacy services in England this week (20 November) that commercial competition between pharmacies makes collaboration across PCNs even more difficult than it is for GPs.
He said: ‘Community pharmacies are competitive businesses – they are chasing patients and volume – but the NHS has been £4.5bn clear that it wants us all to work in PCNs.
‘If that, as my GP colleagues tell me, is very difficult for GPs, it’s bloody difficult for community pharmacy because of the competition between them.’
PCN meetings ‘pretty awkward’
The first PCN meetings between community pharmacies are ‘pretty awkward’ because there is ‘a lot of suspicion’, Mr Dukes added.
He said: ‘They are putting aside past rivalries and disputes because their survival depends on it. And I have no doubt because of the entrepreneurial abilities and the agility of community pharmacy as businesses, that they will succeed in doing so.’
Discussions had between contractors within PCNs will lead to business decisions and ‘changes on the ground’ that will benefit community pharmacy, patients, PCNs and the wider NHS, he added.
Since July, practices across England have been backed by £4.5bn in funding to work together and with other healthcare providers in local PCNs serving around 30-50,000 patients.
The new community pharmacy contract incentivises integration with PCNs as part of its updated pharmacy quality scheme (PQS), while the Government has made clear that the community pharmacy and GP contracts will continue to align.
Speaking at the conference, a local commissioner told delegates that collaboration is vital because the ‘survival’ of community pharmacy and general practice are ‘dependent’ on one another.