Here’s our pick of what we found out at The Pharmacist’s event, from the future of primary care to the many uses of the NHS app


The Pharmacist’s one-day event Pharmacy Forward took place on 12 May in Birmingham at the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre.

Delegates were given a comprehensive insight into some of the biggest issues affecting contractors’ place in primary care today as well as ideas for how to maximise profits in a turbulent time for community pharmacy.

Here are our top take-aways from the day.


1. Primary Care Networks need contractors’ attention straight away


The emergence of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) is arguably one of the biggest changes to the primary care commissioning landscape for several years. In short, PCNs are groups of local healthcare providers led by GP practices that care for groups of 30,000-50,000 patients as part of multidisciplinary teams.

When they are finalised at the beginning of July, it is expected that they will comprise of five to six GP practices and nine to ten surrounding community pharmacies.

You can read more about where community pharmacists here.

Speaking at Pharmacy Forward, Mike Maguire, chair of the Cumbria and North East Local Professional Network (Pharmacy), told delegates that the time is ripe for contractors to start getting in touch with the GP practices making up their local PCNs.

While he acknowledged that PCNs might be in a more organised state in early 2020 once they have had a few months to settle into the new system, he stressed the importance of approaching the groups as soon as possible to make sure pharmacy gets a seat around the table from the off.


2. Think about what role you want to play in your PCN – then work out how to make it happen


As PCNs will be responsible for delivering local health outcomes rather than sticking to national goals, contractors have a real opportunity to work out where they can be of most use to the network and offer up their services, Mr Maguire told delegates.

However, he warned that pharmacists should be mindful of GPs’ core offerings, as encroaching on these could provoke hostility rather than the multidisciplinary working at the core of the PCN concept.

Instead, contractors should work out what their team can deliver that the GPs can’t and suggest this to the PCN, he suggested. Mr Maguire highlighted local practice managers’ and patient groups as good networking opportunities to find out where pharmacy can add value to the PCN.


3. The NHS app could be quite a game-changer, and it’s more accessible than you might think


According to Mohammed Hussain, senior clinical lead of live services at NHS Digital, the NHS app – to which all GP practices will be linked to by July – will be able to hold a multitude of information, from organ donation preferences to online access to 111 services.

A key feature of the app is its verification ability to match the pictures on a patient’s identification – for example a passport or driving license – with the patient’s actual face using a smartphone camera. Questioned on how easy some patients – particularly the elderly – would find to use this feature, Mr Hussain replied that most had found it relatively simple. His pharmacy had run workshops specifically for the app, and this had been used with less and less frequently the longer that patients had the app, he said.


4. Think carefully about how you stock products


It turns out that community pharmacists could take a leaf out of supermarkets’ books with regards to stocking products. Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, consumer psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University, closed the day by telling delegates to think carefully about where they positioned certain products on the shelves.

Most supermarkets stock their own-brand (typically cheaper) products on the bottom shelf as the human eye visits this place last. However, more expensive products tend to be stocked in the middle or top shelf, where the eye naturally hits first, Dr Janssen-Boyd explained. Try reworking your displays to maximise sales opportunities.