Contractors will need to develop leadership skills to engage with primary care networks (PCNs) effectively, former RPS president Ash Soni has said.

PCNs are groups of GP practices serving 30-50,000 patients that work collaboratively with local healthcare providers such as community pharmacies. All of this is backed by funding under the latest GP contract.

Community pharmacies have lots to offer PCNs but need to be given the tools to help GPs ‘enhance’ patient care without creating tension, Mr Soni told The Pharmacist.

He said: ‘We have to support [community pharmacists] to understand how they can have the leadership skills to have those conversations.

‘If you go to a GP and say, "the care you provide this cohort of patients is not as good as it could be," it’s a really difficult message to give. [Telling GPs] "You're not good at what you do," is not what we're trying to get across.’

Last month, research revealed that GPs ignore pharmacist advice because they believe it is ‘unlikely’ to benefit patients.

Local professional networks (LPNs) should support pharmacists to have the confidence to approach GPs with solutions to their problems, rather than focusing on identifying problems alone, Mr Soni added.


Enhancing pharmacists’ visibility


PCNs can also facilitate greater collaboration between pharmacy sectors and help patients to see pharmacists as the experts on their medicines through an ‘integrated medicines pathway’, Mr Soni added.

He wants to see referrals from community pharmacists to their colleagues in GP practices, care homes and secondary care become the norm in the same way that patients are referred from GPs to specialist doctors.

When a community pharmacist is unsure how to solve a patient’s problem with their medicine where the diagnosis remains unchanged, it may be more appropriate to refer the patient to another pharmacist with more expertise in that area, Mr Soni explained.

He said: ‘I want to think about the medicines people are taking and how I can optimise that by utilising the skills within the pharmacy environment rather than the medical environment.’

An integrated medicines pathway would also provide career progression opportunities for community pharmacists who can learn from each referral and use the experience they gain to inform future treatments, Mr Soni added.