There aren't enough pharmacists to cater for Primary Care Networks, says our GP blogger Dr Livingstone
The bugle has sounded. But the question remains; is there actually anyone charging over the hill to save us GPs?
After all, you pharmacists – together with a battalion of care navigators who at least can show you the way if you’re not sure – are supposed to comprise the first wave of the new Primary Care Networks’ (PCN) army of frontline staff.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to plug the gaps in care caused by the chronic lack of family doctors, a deficiency that will continue until the health minister remembers exactly which sofa the promised, and currently missing, five thousand new GPs are stuffed down the back of.
Which is all fine and dandy. Except that we remain unclear as to whether you pharmacists really are ‘out there’ – and, if you are, whether you’re willing to fight the PCN fight.
The idea was sold on the back of a current surplus of pharmacists. And it’s true that there are more schools of pharmacy than ever before – which, together with cost-cutting in community pharmacy would make us think that we only need to check out the job centre queues to fill our PCN pharmacy vacancies.
On the other hand, a huge drop in pharmacist registrations with the GPhC since the Brexit vote has led to talk about real or potential staff shortages.
That’s why my practice’s fledgling PCN is already nervous and pessimistic about recruiting pharmacists. This is hardly surprising given that the ultimate aspiration of ‘one pharmacist for every practice’ means that PCNs are on the prowl for about 7,000 of you.
This has already led to an unseemly tug of love/war over the pharmacists we already have on the pre-existing practice pharmacy scheme. Share them, insists the PCN. Hands off, we reply.
I’ll let you know how it all pans out. But as the cavalry riding to our salvation, do hurry. We’re already fighting among ourselves.