Pharmacists working in GP practices can lead primary care networks (PCNs), although community pharmacists working within a network cannot – despite being expected to join the groups, The Pharmacist has learned.
Under the new five-year GP contract, practices will be provided with extra funding to join PCNs – networks serving 30-50,000 patients – and employ additional staff, including 70% of a practice pharmacist’s wage.
All networks must appoint an accountable clinical director, who will be responsible for ensuring it delivers local services and providing strategic and clinical leadership.
NHS England has clarified to The Pharmacist that while the clinical director of a PCN does not have to be a GP, they must be an appropriately qualified clinician who is currently working in a member practice of the network.
While community pharmacists will be expected to play a part in PCNs, only practice-based pharmacists will be able to take on the clinical director role.
This month, new NHS England guidance was published revealing that the inclusion of non-GP providers such as community pharmacies in PCNs will be ‘a requirement’ from 2020.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, said it is positive that pharmacists on the whole ‘are not barred’ from leading PCNs.
She added: ‘That said, I would query why community and primary care pharmacists could not be considered for the role and would question why NHS England would want to restrict the pool from which they can draw talent.
‘It is increasingly clear that the primary care networks are very GP-centric. If they are to realise their potential for patients, it is vital that greater thought is given to how pharmacists can contribute’.
In February, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette warned that pharmacists working in PCNs could ‘overtake’ community pharmacy.
NHS England’s five-year framework for GP contract reform, published on 31 January, provides a role description for ‘clinical’ pharmacists working in network practices.
It says: ‘Clinical pharmacists will have a leadership role in supporting further integration of general practice with the wider healthcare teams, including community and hospital pharmacy’.
The Pharmacist has asked NHS England for clarification on whether this means practice-based pharmacists will specifically lead community and hospital pharmacists within the network team, and what the specific role of contractors will be in PCNs.