GPs will need community pharmacy teams to help them deliver their primary care network (PCN) objectives, England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) has said.

Since July, GP practices have been backed by extra funding to work together and with other healthcare providers in local PCNs serving 30-50,000 patients.

Speaking last week (7 October) at the Pharmacy Show 2019 in Birmingham, deputy CPhO for England Bruce Warner said that community pharmacists must work with GPs to help them deliver their PCN contract objectives.

He added: ‘[GPs] are not going to be able to do this without the help of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and their teams.

‘You can envisage community pharmacy having a key role in the delivery of cardiovascular disease (CVD) strategy, early detection of patients with undiagnosed disease, prevention and cancer.’

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.


PCN pharmacists from community backgrounds


Mr Warner added that the majority of pharmacists that have been recruited into PCNs have come from a community pharmacy background.

He told delegates: ‘That’s great, [but] we need to look at the skills of all the pharmacists employed from all backgrounds, determine where the gaps are in their skill base and knowledge, and make sure those gaps are filled and they are supported.’

As part of the network contract, GP practices are being given funding to cover 70% of a practice-based pharmacist’s wage during the deal’s first 12 months.

Community pharmacists will need to have ‘strong links’ with these PCN-employed pharmacists, Mr Warner added.


‘A massive challenge’


However, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) Simon Dukes said that working together in PCNs will be ‘particularly challenging’ for contractors.

They are used to competing with other community pharmacies and the sector has been ‘fragmented for years’, he told delegates on the first day of the Pharmacy Show (6 October).

He added: ‘Primary care networks are a massive challenge for us, just as they are for other parts of healthcare.

‘GPs are finding it hard [and] I think we’ll find it even more so. But we’ve got to try.’

PSNC will provide LPCs with ‘as much advice and guidance as possible’ to help them engage with PCNs, he added.