Practice pharmacists have ‘a real opportunity’ to be a ‘conduit’ between community pharmacy and general practice, or could risk ‘creating silos’, National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) president Ash Soni has said.

Speaking to The Pharmacist after his election as the NAPC’s first ever pharmacist president last month, he said: ‘There's a real opportunity, that I think some practice pharmacists are taking, about liaising more closely with community pharmacy colleagues, and potentially with secondary care colleagues.’

However, he noted that ‘a number’ of practice pharmacists saw their role as limited to general practice, which he said risked GPs and PCNs ‘operating within a silo and not trusting other healthcare professionals’.

Mr Soni explained that ‘historically’ hospital, industry and community pharmacists ‘never talked to each other almost, and didn’t trust each other’. He added: ‘And now you've got this GP group as well and PCN group. And the risk is they do the same thing.’

However, he said he saw some ‘really great opportunities’ for pharmacists working in general practice to help ‘gel the system together more’, adding that they had the opportunity to become a ‘conduit’ of information between community pharmacies and GPs.

Practice pharmacists could be the voice of community pharmacy within their practices, and vice versa, he argued– for instance, by letting community pharmacists know when a particular drug would be transitioned to a generic version, so that community pharmacists could plan to wind down their existing stock.

Mr Soni added that this could be particularly key during ongoing drug shortages and supply chain issues.

He explained: ‘Working with the community pharmacy to better understand where drugs are in shortage gives you an opportunity to think about how you support that, so the patient isn't going to run backwards and forwards trying to sort stuff out.’

For example, amid recent HRT shortages, he said that his pharmacy - Copes Pharmacy in Streatham - worked with practice pharmacists to get prescriptions put in generic form, giving community pharmacies the flexibility to dispense the brand available.

He also said that better communication with community pharmacies could help combat any suspicion between the professions.

He said: ‘I think there’s a presumption that [drug shortages are] because it's becoming too expensive, and [community pharmacies] don't want to buy it rather than actually, there's a real problem in the market.’

Mr Soni also suggested that practice pharmacists could consider working as a locum one day a week in community pharmacy, and vice versa.

‘There's no reason, if things are working well, why you might not have a portfolio career,’ he said.

This follows a suggestions from Dr Bruce Warner, the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England, that with the introduction of independent prescribing on a widespread scale, pharmacists could be more likely to have ‘portfolio careers’ across general practice and community pharmacy.

However, Mr Warner added that community pharmacy needed to become a more exciting and fulfilling place to work to ensure it retains independent prescribers.

In his new role as president of the NAPC, Mr Soni said that he would be evaluating where and how pharmacists could be best used and how they could support other healthcare professionals to better utilise medicines and care for patients.

The NAPC represents the interests of primary care professionals, including general practitioners, nurses, practice staff, pharmacists, opticians and dentists, within the NHS Confederation.

As the NAPC’s first pharmacist president, Mr Soni said that he would try to ‘better integrate community pharmacy, and community pharmacists within the healthcare system’, ‘alongside the other pharmacists that are being employed elsewhere’.

Mr Soni said that he will focus on enabling ‘neighbourhood care’, which would take an inter-disciplinary approach to population health in local areas. Collaboration between healthcare professionals was key, he added: ‘It's all about, how do you collaborate more around the needs of the public to support their health and wellbeing?’

More from Mr Soni’s interview with The Pharmacist to come.