Community pharmacy contractors are keen to collaborate with each other but ‘need help to free up time’, an LPC lead has said.

Hemant Patel, secretary of North-East London local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), told delegates that contractors in his LPC are keen to collaborate but lack the capacity to do so at a Westminster Health Forum conference on the future of English pharmacy last week (20 November).

The latest community pharmacy contract incentivises integration with primary care networks (PCNs) – groups of practices backed by funding to work together and with other healthcare providers serving around 30-50,000 patients – as part of its updated pharmacy quality scheme (PQS).

Mr Patel said: ‘I can see the enthusiasm and commitment of community pharmacies, but I think they need help to free up time.’

In a recent survey conducted by the LPC, all 60 respondents said they want to work with neighbouring pharmacies, however 58 said they ‘will not be able to deliver the new contract’, he added.

Mr Patel asked: ‘In order to free up capacity, are we going to revisit supervision or perhaps reinterpret it slightly differently? And what is the role of technology?’

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief Simon Dukes told delegates that both technology and better use of the wider pharmacy team will be needed to address the issue of capacity in the sector, an issue that ‘keeps [him] awake at night’.


‘Major workforce issues’


Last week (20 November), South London contractor and National Pharmacy Association (NPA) board member Reena Barai took to Twitter to express her frustration at the lack of community pharmacy representation at a meeting with a local GP practice.



Devon LPC commented on her Tweet that ‘major workforce issues’ in its own area make finding cover to allow for pharmacists to attend meetings ‘really difficult’.

Meanwhile, practice and hospital pharmacist Ben Merriman suggested that scheduling meetings in the evening rather than during the day might help, as ‘locums don’t come cheaply’.

However, community clinical pharmacist Chris Armstrong said contractors might be reluctant to engage with PCNs when they are ‘struggling just to survive’.



Collaboration ‘bloody difficult’


Speaking at the conference, Mr Dukes said that collaboration across PCNs is ‘bloody difficult’ for community pharmacies but that ‘their survival depends on it’.

Meanwhile, local commissioner James Roach told delegates that the ‘survival’ of community pharmacy and general practice means they are ‘dependent’ on one another in the face of workforce shortages.